January 19, 2023

when same-page thought goes thru the pauper-paper shredder

After my labs were normal, I suggested to Coach that we take the  gang to dinner. He said he'd been thinking the same thing. Hooray for the same page. 

I suggested Wild Fire. It's my favorite, specializing in steak. No menu needed, "I'll have fillet mignon, please." When Coach gets bread before dinner, they bring me, hands down, the best GF bread I've ever had. I never eat bread, so this is a treat. 

Coach and I usually go there for my birthday. His patients often gift him with a Lettuce Entertain You gift card after treatment ('Lettuce' owns several popular nice restaurants in our area), which is always much appreciated. We keep a little stash of our various gift cards, and we dig through when we want to go out. This is a nice occasional perk of his job. Remember - his hours suck, so tradeoff. 

Backup the bus to last year's birthday dinner:  My AHA moment:  Now that the kids are older and not spilling milk and throwing food, well - depending on the day, I'd enjoy having the entire family attend my birthday dinner. So last year we all went to our local Chilis a few days after Wild Fire. I figured that we'd plan things differently this year, so we could all celebrate me. 

Where the same-page goes into the shredder:  Coach snarled at the Wild Fire suggestion. Note - I had not requested we do dinner for my b-day. I just wanted to take our family out for a nice meal. We rarely all eat out:  schedules, kids away at school, and budget constraints. 

He said he and I could go to Wild Fire later for my birthday dinner, but it was too pricey to take everyone. 

I argued that we could swing Wild Fire once a year. More head rolling (his version of eye rolling, but the whole head rolls, sending a message of exasperation). Fine. I let it drop, but I said a group our size needed a reservation soon. It was Wednesday and we wanted to eat out on Saturday. I was bummed, but I said I didn't want to go to a place like Chilis. 

I heard him on the phone:  DO YOU TAKE RESERVATIONS? He sent a link to the menu at Outback Steakhouse, which I didn't notice for days. I wasn't thrilled. Yes, they serve steak, but still more of a Chili's feel than what I'd envisioned.

We wanted to eat early because we were getting up early to drive to Ed's college. We stopped at home after mass 4:30 mass VERY briefly - since we live a few houses away. Coach was annonyed because reservations were at 5:45. 

Outback was at the far end of the neighboring town. More of a 20 min drive than what I'd assumed was a 7 minute drive. 

While Coach parked, Mini and I crawled our way through a huge crowed to check in. 

"Oh, we don't take reservations, but we keep a list of requests. We'll let you know when your table is ready. It's about a 30 minute wait." 

Coach had failed to make the non-reservation thing clear. 

My brain:  30 min is a worse case scenario. We'll be seated sooner. 

We  waited like cattle (get it, steak place). When the bench opened up, I sat. I told my tall people to try to move away from the booths where people were eating. With limited standing room, my guys were spilling into the aisles. I tried to stay positive. Lad was meeting us straight from work, so this would mean he might make it in time. 

I bought this when we were in Annapolis watching Lad play water polo. I had it in my closet and intended to give it to him for graduation. Then 'shit-show', so I gave it to him for Christmas. (wording:  THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A DAY WHEN I HAVE NOT BEEN PROUD OF YOU, I SAID TO MY SON - THOUGH SOME DAYS I'M LOUDER ABOUT OTHER STUFF SO IT'S EASY TO MISS THAT.)

As I read several blog posts on my phone, the crowd thinned. Lad arrived. We waited. 

A man, tired of having my men cast a shadow over his meal, asked the hostess to make them move. I overheard him and instructed Mini to alert the fam, NOW. Sheesh. 

Eventually, I asked the hostess for an update. A large group was still using 'our' table. I'd seen these people leave and come back with store-bought cupcakes as if they had a private room. I watched as the group finished eating, and now stood around their table chatting - despite no space to do so. Really it couldn't be helped, but a different restaurant would've been more ideal for our purposes . . . as in - we wanted to sit down and eat without bumping elbows with other tables. We needed a real reservation. 

We waited for 1 hr., 10 minutes for our table. So much for eating early and getting to bed. *My gut issues sometimes ramp up when I eat late. 




Other than that comment and the few tears I quietly shed at the hour-wait mark, I made a conscious effort to engage and chat with my people because this was our one-night-out meal. The dinner was fine. I didn't order a fillet, since Coach was so cost conscious. He'd chosen this place because he'd been given a $50 gift card. 

Gift cards from patients:  both a blessing and a curse. 

A waitress handed Mini her plate across three people. Mini reached for it, but the plate tilted and a puddle of grease landed in her lap all over her new purse and her favorite jeans. She wiped away tears while I assured her I'd probably be able to get the grease out. 

I was honestly grateful for the family time. Lad had threatened not to come after his outburst about not being included in the Ireland trip, but there he was. 

I get that it's pricey to treat the family. I know Coach was aligning with our commitment to being cautious with money, but the kids are all old enough to enjoy a night out and appreciate it. It isn't something we do often. Also, Mini has a scholarship and Ed has a great job lined up and he'll pay us back for this semester's tuition so we can pay it forward to another kid. The 'we're fine' list goes on. 

Next year it'll be done right. I promise to make the reservation myself. I work very, very hard (and I have an upcoming post about my daycare to prove it). I earn a good income and I save money where I can. Our kids are borrowing VERY little to pay for college. I've spent YEARS being frugal and careful with money. One nice dinner out a year does not frivolous spenders make. We are NOT paupers, damn it. 

I'm thinking of planning a festive Wild Fire half-birthday this summer when we are all together. Half birthdays are the same as birthday months in my book - celebrate till all celebration efforts have been exhausted. 

Oh, and when the bread basket, brimming with gluten, arrived at Outback, I was starving. Enough said? 

Tell me, do you choose where you and the family eat out? Will any of you be in town around, oh - say June 30th, and if so, would you like to gather for my 1/2 birthday? Do you have a suggestion for a place for us to eat in the Chicagoland area?


Nicole said...

Oh, I'm sorry this turned into such a shitshow, Ernie. What a disappointment! We do not eat out very often, but there's only four of us so it's not difficult to get seated or anything when we do. I'm really sorry it wasn't a nicer evening for you.

ccr in MA said...

Oh, I am pretty annoyed at Coach on your behalf! I'm sorry for all the setbacks to your plans.

I too am an "I'll have that lovely steak" diner! I like Outback fine, but I agree it isn't the fine dining experience. That is, it's fine! Just not fine dining.

I'll stop now.

Ally Bean said...

Well, this is a bummer. I don't think I'd have the patience to wait as long as you did, gift card be damned. We rarely eat out and when we do it's usually with friends who want to pick the place, so in answer to your question I don't often choose where we eat.

Kara said...

My kids don't like to eat, so we really don't eat out as a family. There's a cute Italian place near our house that generally everyone can find something they'll eat. We try to go out for birthdays, and let the kids pick. And the kids are fond of places like Chilis (also not my favorite). For my birthday and for anniversaries, we like to go for sushi or similar.

For Chicago, well, I won't be around (but we might be in Toronto!), but Girl & the Goat is pretty awesome.

Jenny in WV said...

Ugh! How disappointing!
Outback is fine, but nothing special! With the kids getting older there aren't going to be many opportunists to do the occasional fancy dinner out with everyone, so I think it would be worth it to spend the money! Also, a place with bread you can eat, that's a good enough reason right there!
You definitely need a half-birthday dinner do-over!

mbmom11 said...

We usually don't eat out at all (except McDonalds or ice cream) as I'm a finicky eater and hate waiting and get anxious in restaurants -It's hard to relax after years of watching for the kids to spill or drop something. Also, when the kids were little , it would be too expensive even at a cheap place to bring everyone. My husband is also -umm - thrifty so he'd rather do food cheaper at home. I do send my teens and adult kids out for a meal when they're home visiting - they like to try different things and I can then support the local restaurants without having to go myself.
I hope you can have a lovely half-birthday. You have earned it after all you've been through these past few years.

Amy said...

That sucks! It's your birthday dammit! It's not asking too much to go to the restaurant of your choice and to have the whole family there. I try to choose for my birthday and Mother's Day, but my husband sometimes switches it up on me too. :( Like last Mother's Day I wanted sushi, and we ended up going to a hibachi place - the food was good, and I was able to get a sushi roll, but it wasn't quite what I'd asked for. Generally though, I'll express an opinion for type of food, but I'm not all that picky. I won't wait all that long though - if there's a line, we're picking someplace else. I have low blood sugar, so timing is more important.

Ernie said...

Nicole - It was a bummer. I feel a tad spoiled complaining, because it WAS dinner out. I was just hoping for a more pleasant experience and really - if I'm going to wait in a cramped area for over an hour, it is no longer pleasant. Sometimes lessons need to be learned. Coach won't forget this one - all because of a stupid gift card.

Ernie said...

ccr - I agree, it was fine. The end. There are so many inconsistencies to Coach's money saving ways. Like wanting me to take additional days off of my daycare in order to visit Tank, but I don't make that income up. He, on the other hand, has vacation days - so why wouldn't we go when I have spring break and he can take time off? I understand that his employees want that week off too, but TOO BAD. I could go on, but now - I'll stop. ;)

Ernie said...

Ally - I so wish we'd have just decided to switch gears, but at that hour on a Saturday night with our size group, I'm not sure we would've found something that worked any better. I agree, gift card be damned. I enjoy meeting another couple out and I so prefer it if they pick the place, because we don't get out often and I don't know where to go. I don't like that pressure. I do try to avoid Italian places because of gluten and I hate insisting that we steer clear of places because of gluten, so it is a tad nerve wracking. Again, we don't go out much - so, not a huge deal.

Ernie said...

Kara - I'm staring at your comment in disbelief. Your kids don't like to eat? Are you raising birds then? My kids are the polar opposite - pretty much all they do is eat. I do not care for sushi. I'm glad you have a place where everyone can find something. I used to love eating Italian. Curly will always order a burger. I'm working on getting her to expand her horizons. I'm making a note of girl and the goat.

Ernie said...

Jenny - I agree, it is hard enough right now to get their schedules to align - I can only imagine how challenging it'll be down the line. From a budget standpoint, imagine the added cost once the kids start adding dates. Ha. I told Coach today that I'll be organizing a dinner out this summer. He's sensitive about it - recognizes that it went sideways and doesn't like me to bring it up, but I wanted to be sure that we are CLEAR going forward.

Ernie said...

mbmom11 - I totally get your aversion to eating out with a big family. It sure is cheaper to eat at home. I suppose if you are a picky eater it works best to stay home and work with what you know. We love taking them out for ice cream too. Fast, easy and less pricey than a whole meal.

I'm sure the half birthday meal will be worth the wait.

Anonymous said...

We stopped eating out when the pandemic hit and still haven't gotten back to it. It's not so much concern about viruses at this point. It's more that we got out of the habit of thinking of meals out as an option. Plus even ordering take-out from Qdoba is coming with a side of sticker shock. Not because Qdoba is so very expensive relative to 2019, I think, but because we stopped experiencing paying normal restaurant prices for a single family meal for so long. The numbers seem big because we aren't used to them anymore.

It's one of the downer things we're still experiencing in our family as a result of the pandemic. My husband and I are both so rusty when it comes to non-home places and activities. We're chipping at it a little bit, but neither one of us is even close to where we used to be.

Ernie said...

Amy - I really was disgusted. I should've known back when Coach took me to Old Country Buffet for one of our first dates. We were college kids. The fare was cafeteria style food that sat out for hours. He was Um - I was not expecting anything fancy, but still - NO. It makes me laugh to think about it now. Coach even pointed out that the gift card worked at an Italian place close to our home. Say what? I'd rather go to Italian and find SOMETHING for me, because the kids would've loved that. Why did we sit there? Mind blowing. I really didn't think it was going to be over 30 minutes, because usually places make it sound worse than it is so that the customer is pleasantly surprised.

Ernie said...

Anonymous - I totally get that. It is pricey to eat out. Our idea of fast food is me whipping up something that I can make FAST, hand it to people on paper plates and they can take it with them, or stick it in a thermos. ;)

I suggest breakfast out - it's cheaper, generally than dinner. We got out of the habit of taking kids to breakfast during the pandemic. We take each kid out to breakfast twice a year, so they get one on one time with us. I think it's the smartest thing we ever done as parents (aside from all the stuff that most everyone does like use seatbelts). Eating out for us is really rare, especially with the whole gang.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ernie - our family of six (two adults and 4 adult size kids) loves to eat out - honestly we probably spend too much on it. At Christmas time we try to have dinner in or near downtown Chicago every year. This year we went to this place: and even my picky eater found something to eat (and they have lots of gluten free items on the menu). The service was really good. It's pricy, but probably less than The Girl and the Goat (which is an awesome restaurant for sure). Oh - also - they have free valet parking and we easily found parking on the street early on Saturday (no tip!).

Beth Cotell said...

I'm so sorry your birthday dinner didn't work out the way you wanted it to. You definitely need a midyear re-do!

Kari said...

I'm sorry your birthday dinner did not go as well as you had hoped. That was how my birthdays used to be. Maybe don't invite your husband the next time... I'M JOKING.:)

So I'm definitely up for a half-birthday party, and since I live locally, I'll be there. Let me know what you have in mind, and I will do my best to make it a reality because birthdays are important. ❤️

joymariecooks said...

What a disappointing birthday dinner! Maybe to forestall a similar thing next year you could put $5 in cash in an envelope every week and then when Coach says it's too expensive to go where you want, whip out your approximately $250 and then there can't be any argument.

Busy Bee Suz said...

You have my sympathies; you deserved a perfect family night dinner, and this was not it. I understand where your husband is coming from, but I hope he learned a lesson here: Give the hard-working birthday girl her special dinner. Damnit.

I can't recall any disappointing dinners, but I'm sure there's been some.

June 30th. Let me check my calendar.

Oh, and I love that Son card. I think the artist/art is called Story People? They have some really cute and deep cards/art.

Pat Birnie said...

Wow Ernie that card actually choked me up a bit. Probably because I have 3 sons that…. ummm I’ve not always been proud of their actions. And also wow I got so made at Coach a $50 gift card!! What kind of dent did that make in the bill for 8 people? I’m happy you did get a night out with all your kiddos. I really cannot believe that family went out to pick up cupcakes and reclaimed their table?? really. That is so embarrassing on their behalf.

Nance said...

All of this sounds just awful, and I'm sorry. There is simply no reason for any restaurant not to take reservations for large parties, and it's egregious to have people wait in herds to dine.

Every one of you deserved better (well, maybe not your husband in this case).

I'd call in my marker on this many, many, MANY times over. What a shitful situation.

Why don't you treat yourself to a quiet dinner out at Wildfire?

Ernie said...

Nance - You raise a good point. I also wondered why thy had to wait for that ONE table to seat us. Why not have people who arrived after us wait to be seated so that they could push a few tables together to accomodate us. Weird.

Coach feels bad. He doesn't want me to revisit it, but I did anyway. I am fine waiting until all of my children are home and up for the treat. By then we will be hearing about Tank's Ireland adventure and Ed will have graduated. With any luck, Lad will have made enough prgress so that he will be poised to move out. Fingers crossed.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

An hour! And ten! Minutes! OMG! That is awful. I'm so sorry. I would have been so frustrated and hangry, and sending eye daggers at the chatty family at the table. And poor Mini -- were you able to get the grease out of her purse and jeans? That would have legit made me cry.

At least it sounds like it turned out okay, in terms of Time Together, so that's good.

Ernie said...

Suzanne- It was a long wait. Maybe it would make sense to wait that long if we were at a 5 star joint. Not the case. I did get the grease out of her fav jeans. And her purse seemed to wipe up easily. bullet dodged.

I look forward to the next get together when we can relax at the table and not rush home to go to bed to get up at 5:30 am.

Cindy said...

We usually always eat out for birthdays. And the birthday girl/guy gets to choose the restaurant. Ya live and learn. Your next birthday will be magnificent!! :)

Ernie said...

Cindy - I tend to agree - magnificent is on the agenda. I really wasn't even considering this my birthday dinner - it felt more like a small celebration that my labs were normal. I think if it had been my birthday dinner, I'd have been more insistent that we go to my fav place. Live and learn is right.

Bibliomama said...

Yeah, this kind of thing makes me really angry. If you're going to do it, why not do it right, instead of in a half-assed way that makes everyone annoyed? It's your birthday and he should have sucked it up. Outback is NOT a reasonable substitute for a place that has a good filet mignon and good gluten-free bread. Tell him I said he's a weenie.

Ernie said...

Ali - I agree whole-heatedly. Outback is not a good sub for Wildfire. And yes, it felt half-assed and sometimes you just have to pay a little bit, espeically since WE RARELY pay to eat there because of giftcards. Humpf.