So out to dinner we go on a snowy, cold Saturday in January. I’d have been happy with a McDonald’s drive thru, but apparently I only vocalized that in my head or I was blatantly ignored.
So we get to the restaurant and there is a line almost out the door. This is not a line to be seated, this is the line to sign-up to get seated. Right away I know I’m in for a long afternoon. I quickly scan over to the bar area to see how much of hassle it’s going to be to soothe the wait.
I guess I can’t afford or I’m too cheap to find a restaurant that actually takes reservations. We always end up at the semi-upscale chains that don’t take reservations, along with 250 people who had the same idea.
I finally get to the front of the line and give the hostess my name and she hands me the flashing buzzer thing that will alert me when my table is ready. She tells me it’s going to be an hour and I nonchalantly say, “Oh, okay. Thanks,” like it’s no big deal that for the next 60 minutes I’ll be crowding around a bar or bench waiting to sit down to have dinner. The hostess also reminds me that the ‘buzzer’ will only work within the confines of the restaurant. So in case I thought I’d like to meander the parking lot in a -5 degrees wind chill, I’d better reconsider. Had my drive thru suggestion been heeded, I’d be stealing some greasy, steamy fries from the top of the McDonald’s bag by now.
I wade over to the bar area and finally get the lady bartender’s attention and ask for a glass of Cabernet. She asks if the ‘house wine’ will be OK and I quip, “is that my house or your house?” She laughs what appears to be a sincere chuckle – and I, of course, think I’m the funniest guy in the place. My teenage daughter who wandered over with me, rolls her eyes, but I sense a bit of a snicker in there somewhere.
No kidding, there has to be 50 – 60 people waiting. It is a mass of humanity pressed within the confines of this restaurant to partake in what must be some of the finest cuisine on this side of town. All of us, in groups of 2 or 4 or 10 have been given these hand-held, light flashing, vibrating indicators to let us know when we can again wade through the crowd to present it to the same hostess that handed to us in the first place. We could have been spared this nonsense if she would have just hit the ‘on’ switch when she handed it to me.
Over the course of that hour, I checked my indicator a couple of times, wondering if mine was actually charged and whether or not the vibrator worked or lights would flash. I placed it in my back packet, ensuring the device was close enough to my body so I would feel the vibration. I’m not going down any weird roads, but as much as I anticipate that vibrator going off, it always surprises me a bit. Internally, I let out a little, “Whoah, what’s that!?” Quickly coming to my senses and realizing it’s dinner time.
As I proceed toward the hostess counter I proudly display my flashing, vibrating indicator to the weary souls that just arrived to begin their penance and time in purgatory waiting for their’s to turn on. As I wade through the crowd, it dawns on me that this is a golden opportunity. I turn to an obviously hungry couple and pointing to my indicator I inquire, “Ten bucks?” There eyes light up as they consider this investment. Is $10 worth their one hour wait? With apparent success or at least interest, I move on to another group and inquire again, but now I’ve upped the ante, “Twenty?” I get a few chuckles and a , “Yeah!” I’m having way too much fun with this, so as I approach the hostess station, I again throw the tease out to a group of four (two couples). The one gentleman in the group is a huge man. He’s gotta be 6′ 4″ and weigh 300 pounds, obviously hungry and a great target of opportunity. He chuckles at my offer and then says, “What the hell, I’ll just knock you out and take it!”
So with some indication of possible success and a slightly refined sales pitch, I’m considering taking on ‘Now Serving You’ (look for it in the Yellow Pages) as a profession or at least side job on the weekends.
I show up at a crowded, overpriced, overrated restaurant and sign-up for a seat as a party of four. When my light starts to flashin, and vibration starts to buzzin, that’s when the bidding begins. These hungry patrons will start to dig deep to impress the girlfriend or just to get at that appetizer. No less than $20 and the sky is the limit for the desperate and hungry. After a couple of rounds of ‘vibrator bidding’, I pocket a few bucks and head to the drive thru.
So the next time you’re wanting to go to a restaurant with a little more to offer than Applebee’s but not quite New York City’s Delmonico’s – Look for a shady character sippin a glass of Cabernet near the bar with his vibrating, light flashing indicator in plain view. When you see that indicator go off, slip’m a 20 or so. In no time, you’ll be appetizing with some calamari and oysters on the half shell, under the envious eyes of those ‘it’ll be an hour’ new arrivals.