Saturday night, 9 PM reservations for four. Two in our group celebrating an anniversary, one of them pregnant. We show up a little early hoping a table is ready. “We’re running on schedule,” says the sleek hostess with dark hair so shiny we see our reflections.
We try the bar, but it’s just a trough at this point, crowded with diners who didn’t have reservations. I love the idea of being able to eat at the bar, but what about people who need to use it as a bar? I guess they need two bars. Our pregnant friend is a trooper but I see her look longingly at the seats.
Several tables look like they are going to leave at any moment, but then they never do. Nine PM approaches and the hostess walks over and assures us that we are going to be seated shortly. “In their laps?” I thought to ask but kept it to myself. Our pregnant friend is shifting weight from one foot to the other and smiling through it all. I learned that dance from my bad knees and bad back.
Nine fourteen. Now everybody is looking at me. Tension is filling our tight space in the walkway between the bar and the tables we long to occupy. I made the reservation, I should be the one to complain. But I’m staring at the hostess the whole time. She’s keeping track of us with an appropriate level of concern. Maybe it’s a relic of my bachelor days, but I can tell when someone is paying attention to me.
A terrible minute passes where my best friend, his pregnant wife and my wife all stare me down trying to get me to act on our growing unrest. But I wait. And yes, the manager gets a whisper from the hostess and he’s on his way.
“I’m so sorry about the wait. I thank you for your patience,” he says. “Can I help in any way?” I ask if he has an extra seat available for our pregnant friend. He does. Our friend sits and relaxes for the first time since we got there. “Now we can wait forever.”
We wait for fifteen more minutes, not exactly forever, and receive one more visit from another contrite manager. We finally sit down and enjoy a lovely meal. And when we talk about the wait, which we only do for about thirty seconds, we talk about how well they handled it and how they defused the tension.
Privately, I think they could have found that chair the second we walked in, but I can also chalk that up to not asking for it sooner. I don’t mention it though, because I don’t want to spoil the good mood.