I hate restaurants. I recognize that this is completely illogical. I mean, let's review: at a restaurant they cook you delicious food. And then you eat it. How could this experience bring anything but joy and merriment?
But somehow I have developed negative feelings about eating out. For one, eating out is expensive. Since I have been a student for the majority of the past eight years, I have mastered money-saving mode. I'm far too lazy to actually create a budget, so my approach to saving has always been to spend as little money as possible. I enjoy this. Spending money on food conflicts with the miser within. Second, I associate restaurants with awkward small talk. Whether it's a good friend or a first date, something about sitting across from someone while a waiter checks in periodically gives me the social skills of a home schooled eighth grader. I find myself asking really dead-end questions while blankly staring at the menu. Like, "Have you ever been here before?" Awkward pause. Response, "Well, yeah. It's the Olive Garden." And all of this small talk happens while you're multitasking. You have to read the menu. And drink your water. And put your napkin on your lap. And then eat your food while trying to answer questions and making sure there's nothing in your teeth.
Also, I admit that a bit of the wide-eyed, naive part of me that didn't understand how restaurants work still lives within. Will they take credit cards? What if they can't split the check and neither of us has cash, and then we have to endure a really awkward conversation about money?
Clearly, I have unhealthy anxiety about the matter. To my credit, I have gotten much better. These days I can stride into a restaurant, glance at the menu, quickly make a decision, and casually talk about the most recent episode of the Bachelorette. I can remind myself that I'm 25, I have a job, and it's not a big deal to spend money on food (in fact there's no way around it). I can remember that I was a waitress for six months and absolutely nothing about eating at a restaurant is foreign or new.
But then every so often, I have an intensely awkward restaurant experience. And all my 25-year-old-adult-I've-been-a-waitress progress crumbles to dust, and I'm just a fourteen-year-old sitting in Shari's stressed about how much to tip the waitress for my $4.50 oreo milkshake.
And it has happened again. This is what went down.
It was last Thursday. My friend Christie was visiting Vancouver/Portland before she gets hitched next week, and we decided to eat lunch in downtown Portland. We picked Elephants. It's right near my work, so I've been a couple of times, I know my way around the place, and I was confident it would be delicious. It's a deli, so there are different counters to order different foods (sandwiches, soups, stuff from the grill, etc.), and then you pay at the register and wait for your order. The lack of waiters/waitresses to add to the restaurant awkwardness was another perk. After briefly glancing at the options, we quickly decided that we wanted cheeseburgers and fries. Hot off the grill. Doesn't that sound delightful? So, we ordered, paid, and then wandered to the bakery counter to covet the chocolate mousse and cupcakes. We came back to the grill and saw two burger plates sitting on the counter. We hadn't heard them call any names, we figured the odds of someone else ordering two cheeseburgers at the same time as us was remote, so we took the burgers and went to the garden room to eat. Christie went to find a bathroom, and I prepared my burger. After stacking the tomato and onions and patting down the bun, I took a much anticipated first bite. Coworkers of mine had gotten burgers before, and I had always wished my soup or sandwich was a beef patty instead. For a moment it was pure joy.
And then I kept chewing. And I realized that this was no hamburger. I looked down at the patty and began to dissect it. Beans. Corn. There was no mistaking it. This was a veggie burger.
I sat in my seat, paralyzed with horror, indecision, and disappointment. Not only was this not a delicious hamburger, but I had unmistakably taken someone else's meal and had just put my hands and mouth all over it. It was while I was in this state of shock that Christie returned. She burst into laughter as she walked in the room, seeing me in such a frazzled state. I explained what had happened. I was absolutely mortified. Christie, being the angel (assertive no-nonsense consumer?) that she is, decided to go investigate the menu. Maybe a veggie burger is all they serve? It is Portland, after all. She quickly came back carrying two cheeseburgers. When she had walked back to the grill they were calling our names over and over again. And the veggie burger guy was standing there. "You took my burgers," he said. Christie took the veggie burgers back, told them what happened, they made a replacement veggie burger, and she quickly retreated to the garden room.
They hate us. I can never go back.