Saturday, March 14, 2009

Life is not like a commercial

I'm sure we've all seen the commercial where "random acts of kindness" inspire another, less random act of kindness and then there one big, happy, chain of kind events that leads back to the original "random act of kindness". The latest example I've seen is below where it's one big happy kumbaya of kind acts.

If the above commercial were real life it would be about 10 seconds long and not end very nicely.

Here is a real life example:

Last night my wife and I went to the new Maggiano's in Cherry Hill. Cherry Hill needs another chain restaurant like I need another barking schnauzer but it's new so we tried it.

It was hard to tell there was a recession going on. The place was packed and had a 1 hour wait for a table when we showed up at 6:45 PM. We stood in line, gave a fake name since ours is difficult to pronounce and got our giant, flashing, vibrating pager and went over to the bar to wait it out.

My wife ordered a raspberry lemon drop martini, I had a beer and we found two seats in the bar area at what can only be described as a breakfast nook. It had eight seats, four on one side , four on the other and my wife and I took seats opposite each other. The nook was located in the center of the bar area with the bar on one side and booths behind.

Next to us was a nice couple that had decided that the wait was too long and they where going to eat at the nook.

Since we were all sitting on top of one another at the nook, it was impossible to not interact with the crowd and we ended up chatting with the couple next to us. They were from East Falls, yada yada yada. They are black, we are white Italian and now I feel like I'm in some racially diverse commercial. I'm looking around for the Asian man I'm going to save from the falling boxes like the commercial. It's one big happy place.

The guy doesn't say much but I figure it's because he's hungry and well, he's a guy.

At one point the East Falls guy tells us that the table of three behind me is about to get up and the tables around the bar are "first come first serve" and I should grab it because they are getting up.

Now I have a job. I have to watch the table behind me and interact with my wife and the rest of happy people at the nook.

When I think the threesome is getting up, I get out of my seat and am hanging around the table.

My night out has turned into a stressful game of watching and waiting, riding that thin line between polite and aggressive. I don't want to look like vulture and I don't want to wait 45 minutes either. Tough call.

The waitress sees me and tells me that the table with the older couple next to the threesome is getting up first and I should get that one instead.

I move the waiting game over to the couple's table. I'm nonchalantly drinking my beer just out of earshot and I'm sizing up the competition. No one seems to notice that a table is coming free. The new couple's table is in a good spot since it is the table closest the door. Well it's not really their table as we'll see later.

From my vantage point I can pretend I'm waiting for someone to come in, eying the door, hovering nearby and ready to pounce on my table.

I'm waiting and waiting. The older couple is getting their stuff together and moving about. I figure I'm in. Things get a little dicey where's a problem of some sort with the credit card but is quickly resolved.

They get up and I get in the booth before they have their coats on.

We have a table!

The waitress prepares our table and tells us that last week there fights over the tables at these bar. It's easy to see how this is possible. combine Liquored up people, an opportunity for aggression and a primal need for food, throw in some orange tanned, steroid pumped, oompa loompa and this is a recipe for disaster.

We are eying the menu and I'm not sure if the raspberry-lemon thingee talking or not but my wife wants to buy East Falls a dessert because "they got us a table". I talk her out of that because A) I'm not really comfortable with it and B) Clearly, my tactical hovering skills got us a table.

Besides sometimes such things have unintended consequences.

East Falls pays their check and leaves and we say good-bye.

We are eying the menu and my wife wants to "pass along the kindness" that the East Falls couple showed us - just like in the commercial.

Maybe I'm cynical and jaded. I think East Falls guy just wanted us to not sit on top of him while yacking when he ate and found a win-win. He did not save me from on coming traffic and save my life.

Next she decides that our act of kindness is that she is going to pick who gets our table. She sees a party of three heading out door and she chases after them almost to their car and offers our table to them. They were leaving because the wait was too long. I'm wondering what was in that raspberry-lemon thing and thinking we should not get involved.

We are gathering our bags of Maggiano's delicious left overs and coats and waiting to pay the check. We get to talking with our selected candidates for the table. They are nice people from Marlton, they have kids in college, they have kids just starting driving. Just like us.

We really like these people. We are connecting with these people. We really want these people to have our table. We are thinking we'll go home having warm thoughts of our new friends from Marlton having a nice dinner at our table.

It's like we are looking for adoptive parents for our table. These people will take good care of our table. We choose you, Mr and Mrs Marlton for the honor of taking our table because we know you will love and care for our table.

After I pay the check, we stand up and the five of us are gathered around the opening of the booth, chatting away and wrapping things up and this squat little Indian woman pushes her way through our little gathering, says something about how she was standing there before we were talking to Marlton and it's Her table.

Mr Marlton says "hey we can all share the table" but it's too late, Indian woman swoops in and sits down.

It's done. Marlton losses the table.

Now it's really, really awkward.

They are stoic about the whole thing saying "it's not worth fighting over table" but it's not like before when we were their heroes and "made their year". We dragged these people back into the restaurant and now they have no table and never got on the waiting list.

I don't recall if we actually saw the Indian woman standing near the table, hovering or not. But it doesn't matter now. She's seated and a slight young Indian looking man sits with her. I guess it's her son. We don't like them at all.

The last 5 minutes of our stay in Maggiano's ruins the whole thing for me. We were having a good time until the witch from India stole the table.

I'm sure that she has a different perspective. Maybe she has a blog and a story about how the people at Maggiano's tried to give away their table to their "friends" but she heroically stepped in and saved the day.

We say good by to Marlton, leaving them hanging with no table and head out. It's very awkward.

Of course the Indian woman dominates the conversation on the ride home. I told my wife that "life is not like a commercial" and to just forget about.

But it's hard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would have expected to see some pictures of this event from the two of you. I'm very disappointed

Tina :(