When I arrived at my parents' house on Wednesday morning, I went through my usual arrival routine.
It goes like this:
First I throw my bags down and kick off my shoes, managing to distribute a trail of stuff from the front door through the living room, and ending in the kitchen.
Once in the kitchen, I lean against the counter, chatting with my parents about my flight, while glancing behind them at the fridge, eager to make a snack, but at the same time restraining myself so I don't look like some savage who just burst into their home to ransack the place.
After a few minutes, they lose interest in me and get back to whatever they were doing before I arrived. This is when I finally get to find myself some food, sit down on the couch, eat my snack in about 4 seconds, and then I watch TV for approximately 7 hours.
And on this particular arrival on Wednesday, my mother came to sit with me at about hour 6.5 of my television watching.
Her topic of the conversation: What's for dinner tonight.
This topic is a favorite of mine.
I never want to outright tell my parents to take me out to dinner, but it's always what I really really want. Fortunately, Mom was on the same page this evening.
We debated back and forth about where to go because she has put nearly every restaurant in Onondaga County on her "No" list, for assorted reasons.
Finally we decided to go to Blue Water Grill in Baldwinsville, which is one town over. I'd been there once, about six years ago, but I remember the food being pretty good, and the atmosphere--a big deck overlooking the river--to be pleasant.
My friend Seth came along because my mom wanted to hear about his recent travels to Italy. It seemed she'd already tired of hearing about what I'd been up to. Maybe because I hadn't been up to anything. And I'd already spent half an hour ranting about how my wedding plans were shot to hell. (What wedding plans? There aren't any. And that's what was making me so upset.)
So my parents, Seth and I arrived at the restaurant to find that the name had been changed to Edgewater Grill. I found this name change peculiar. Why would an establishment want to lose the lovely imagery conjured up by the name "Blue Water"? The name Edgewater made me think of the foamy green water filled with detritus that laps up against the poles of a dock.
"I wonder if it's under new management or if it's just a different name," each of us wondered aloud, one after the next, without acknowledging that anyone else had already said this same thing.
We were seated, quite fittingly, at a table right at the edge of the water. From our seats we had a view of the river, and the enormous fish that were jumping from the surface. And not in a graceful, playful dolphin way. These fish appeared to dying. Or at least very sick. Or ill at ease. I felt bad that I'd wanted to have some seafood for dinner.
It was a busy night and there appeared to only be 2 waitresses covering the deck. We waited and waited. It was a hot night, and I was dying of thirst.
At last she came and took our drink order. I ordered some wine, and everyone else ordered Blue Moon drafts.
When she brought back our drinks, after what felt like an hour, I tried not to glurp down my glass of wine straight away. My parents complained their beer tasted funny and that also their glasses were only filled to within 2 inches of the top. According to my father, this is a nationwide problem. Bartenders are deliberately underpouring to save money.
The beers were sent back. And I'm sure the restaurant was now on Mom's No list.
Still, I tried to keep everyone positive. I truly believe that the moment someone at your table complains during dinner, it starts to make everyone else notice problems. And then everyone starts complaining-- this sauce is too peppery, my soda's a little flat, the waiter's been gone 5 minutes and he just needed to get a napkin, etc.
I refused to let that happen. We looked over our menus and I tried to narrow down my options to something called a fish trio --which sounded like a flavor of Friskie's cat food --or some other thing with scallops and shrimp baked into a puff pastry. It sounded a little nuts, but I was curious.
There was a time when I had a knack for ordering the best thing on the menu. When food was brought to the table, my dining companions would envy my choice. They'd want to sample it. They'd feel their food was inferior.
Well, that time of my life has passed. And lately I have been incapable of ordering anything even remotely appetizing.
We order our dinner and I go for the extravagant fish thingy.
Then I drain my glass of wine, just as my dad finishes his beer. He decides we should order a whole bottle of wine.
And so we do. Things are looking up! ...For about 2 minutes, and then the waitress comes back to tell us that I had been served the last available glass of that particular type of wine.
Ok then. We pick a second choice. A pinot grigio from Italy, in honor of Seth's Italian adventures.
The bottle arrives. It is not from Italy, it is from California. I'm pretty sure it was also not even pinot grigio.
Sigh. Well whatever.
The waitress comes back, now looking flustered.
"We're out of mashed potatoes too."
This upsets Mom and Seth, who had ordered the mashed potatoes.
"But we do have baked potatoes."
The whole table silently wonders to themselves why said baked potatoes can't just be mashed up.
They order alternative side dishes. A few minutes later the food comes out. Looking pleased with herself, the waitress says "I was able to scrape together a half order of mashed potatoes!"
She'd awarded Seth the potatoes. She must have liked him better. Or disliked him, I suppose, seeing as she gave him the nasty, crusty dregs of the potato vat.
Then she sets my dish infront of me. I saw no puff pastry. I saw no delicate arrangement. And where was my side of steamed fresh vegetables?
Instead, there was a giant bowl of pasta, covered in a pink creamy slop. You know when you have fish and you don't really eat the whole serving of fish you're given? You pick out the good parts but occasionally there's a slimy end. And underneath, there is the gray skin that you don't eat? Do you know what I mean? And so you leave these bits on the plate. Well, the fish I'd been given was sort of like all of those scraps taken from about 15 different plates.
And no shrimp. And no scallops. Just visibly grayish mystery fish.
I tried it. It didn't exactly make me want to throw up...but it came close. I poked at it. I tried a few more bites.
Finally I gave up and admitted. "Mine is gross."
My mom tried some.
"Oh god. That's bad."
"Send it back," says Dad.
"Noooooo," I respond. I am incapable of sending food back. It may have to do with all of the years that I waited tables. Or, realistically, it is this deep-seeded desire not to hurt anyone's feelings. Not the waiter's or the chef's or the poor fish who had to give their lives for my dinner.
"If it's really bad, you should send it back."
"It's fine. I didn't feel like eating anyway."
"Well my food's great," offers Seth. Always a big help.
Everyone else continues eating while I dig through my food with a fork, half expecting to find an eye ball or small octopus or something.
Finally the waitress comes to collect our plates.
"How was everything?" she asks.
"Fine. Fine." I just want this nasty plate out of my sight.
"That was awful!" my mother says, pointing at my gray fish pasta.
"It was? Oh no," the waitress responds.
"No. It was just...not my thing...I'm trying to diet anyway."
"I'll take it off the bill for you."
Crap. That's all I need. Now she's just gone and proven my parents' point. She didn't take it personally, and we'd even get our money back.
I waited for one of them to say something.
"See," says Dad.
As we all walked back to the car, my mom said what she says nearly every time we leave a restaurant.
"Well, I wouldn't go there again."
And for once, I replied, "Neither would I."