Now Playing: Sweet Jane, by Cowboy Junkies. “Anyone who’s ever had a heart, Wouldn’t turn around and break it. And anyone who’s ever played a part,Wouldn’t turn around and hate it.”
I’m, for the most part, a calm kind of guy. Sometimes too calm. I’ll demonstrate with another tale from the road – my family’s recent trip to Northern Virginia to attend Lauren’s graduation from George Mason University – and no, I still haven’t forgotten the beating my Tar Heels owe GMU.
Anyway, the trip up was pretty miserable. We had rented a big-old gas-guzzlin’ SUV made by a company that I’ll call Bored. I hadn’t driven one lately, and I was stunned by how little pickup it had. Which made every merge an adventure. The bad kind. We’d gotten the big ride because, in addition to Karen and the kids, we were taking Mimi, Karen’s mother-in-law, who had been staying with us three weeks while recuperating from her third heart attack. Karen’s sister, Sherry, was picking her up Sunday and taking her from NoVa to her home in Pennsylvania. During her time with us, Mimi had good days and bad, and this one was bad.
I’d made a bad decision to stop in Lexington for barbecue, which upset her stomach. From there, she had pain nearly all over. I’ll just leave it at that. She wasn’t happy about how long the trip was taking, but she insisted on removing her seatbelt for a good portion of it. Which made me slow down. Which made the trip longer. (And by no means am I making fun of her. I’ve said it before, but I marvel at her courage given her ailments and prognosis. She’s stronger than I, by far, in all the ways that really count.)
Anyway, around Warrenton, Va., we decided to stop to eat again. I’d never been to Warrenton and had no idea what was there or what wasn’t. As it turns out, it’s a nice little town, with old parts and new parts and lots of stuff that looked interesting. But under the circumstances, I was just looking for a restaurant that would serve lots of different kinds of familiar foods, so Mimi could find something to suit her. The rest of us aren’t picky – though as it turned out, I should have been a bit pickier.
Interlude: Evening Gown, by Alejandro Escovedo (a cover of a pretty good Jagger song). “People say that I’m high class, But I’m low down all the while. People think that I’m crazy, When I flash that California smile. But I can still paint the town, All the colors of your evening gown, While I’m waiting for your blonde hair, To turn grey.”
Anyway, after detouring through town, we finally spotted what is known in the industry as a “quick casual” restaurant that I’ll call “PearBug” – not it’s real name, even if it’s in the Neighborhood. But we accomplished our mission. “PearBug” had applesauce, and it tasted good to Mimi.
The rest of us were enjoying our food, too. I’d gotten a sampler plate, with spicy shrimp, Asian tacos and steak quesadillas. It was good. As is my practice, I alternated foods, saving what I liked best for last, in this case, the quesadillas. So I’d eaten half first and put the the other half aside. When I came back to it, I took a bite, and felt something crunchier than I expected to between my teeth. I didn’t bite down the rest of the way, I just cleared the hard thing out of my mouth.
It was a bolt. No harm done. I didn’t chip a tooth or swallow it. The worst I’d done was eat a germ or two, and I’m not freaky crazy about that kind of thing.
I discretely called my server over – she’d been really good to us – and showed it to her. She apologized and took it to her manager. A few seconds later, the manager rushed by the table – without stopping to speak – and headed for the kitchen. He came back a few minutes later, bolt in hand, and knelt at our table. I was expecting a profuse apology – I’d really kept the whole incident pretty low key.
What I got was A Bolt From The Blue. “The funny thing is, we don’t even have this kind of bolt in our kitchen,” he said. “And the quesadillas come to us prepackaged. We just cut them after they’re cooked.” The funny thing is, I didn’t find that funny at all. I took as a challenge to my honesty. But I just sat and stared at him. If that’s what he meant, he was going to have to say it. He couldn’t and didn’t. He comped my meal, which I didn’t care about – I wasn’t trying to weasel out of paying. I just wanted to show him something that could have been a potential problem and maybe get an apology.
I get that an apology could have been construed as an admission of guilt. And that’s what he was trying to avoid most of all. I’m sure it was right there on page 69 of The PearBug Manager’s Guide to the Universe. But I didn’t even get another half a quesadilla! Not that I would have felt so great about eating it anyway.
So we left and even shared a laugh about it. Graduation was the next night, and we were taking a big group of family and friends out to a different restaurant. Not PearBug’s. And again, the food was great. There didn’t appear to be anything in my homemade chicken pot pie except the stuff that was supposed to be in it. Everything was good. Until I got that last refill of unsweetened tea. And I swear I’m not making this up.
There was a twig in my tea. Not a cinnamon stick. Not a vanilla bean pod. A twig.
This time I kept my mouth shut. I’d enjoyed the meal. The twig didn’t really bother me. It was just there.
But I think I’ll start taking Bugs Bunny Chewable vitamins. That’s gotta be a better way to get iron than bolts.
“By a fountain back in Rome, I fell in love with you, In a small cafe in Athens, You said you loved me too. And it was April in Paris, When I first held you close to me. Rome, Georgia; Athens, Texas; And Paris, Tennessee.” _ (We’re Not) The Jet Set, by John Prine and Iris Dement (and, yes, I know George Jones and Tammy Wynette sang it first).