I went out to dinner with my parents tonight. As many of you know, I am currently on vacation in Myrtle Beach with my daughters, my parents, and my sister's family. It has been going - as well as can be expected under the circumstances. The circumstances are something for another time and another post, I promise I won't keep you hanging, but for right this tired night, I just want to tell you about dinner.
From the time we told our parents we'd be coming to Myrtle Beach, they've been excited about taking us to "the cafeteria". They love "the cafeteria" (sorry about the overuse of the quotes - I'm sure "the cafeteria" has an actual name, but they never use it, so it's skipped right out of my conscious memory...). From the time we told them we were coming, my sister has been saying, "I'm not going to that damn cafeteria". Me? My parents are footing the bill for my condo this week. They were also paying for dinner. And it meant a lot to them. Jeez, it's one meal. Suck it up, Buttercup.
My sister, you see, had made this same trip five years ago, and had gone to "the cafeteria" then. She vowed to never repeat the experience. I thought she was being a little selfish and unreasonable. I repeat: One meal. Suck it up.
Turns out she had a pretty good point. If I come to visit my snowbird parents next year or some other year in the future, I will have a very hard time mustering up enough "suck it up" to get me through another night at "the cafeteria".
First of all, I probably don't have to tell you that my niece and I were the youngest folks there by quite a lot. This is not a familiar situation for me - I am almost ALWAYS the oldest everywhere I go. It felt almost - good. At first.
I probably also don't have to tell you that this whole scenario took place around 4:30 pm.
I probably don't have to tell you what sort of fare was offered up, either. Every comfort food known to man, beginning with a variety of jello salads and ending with a nice array of pies. In the middle there was chicken pot pie and fried chicken and roast beef and liver and meatloaf and mashed potatoes and gravy... you get the idea.
I didn't expect it to be the best food in the world, and it wasn't, but neither was it the worst.
I somehow don't think it was the food that made my sister swear it off.
My parents knew everyone who worked there on a first name basis. However my father, in an effort to indicate to the cashier that he would be paying for four tonight rather than his usual two, sort of hissed and snapped at her to get her attention. That sounds a little uglier than it actually was, but it wasn't exactly pretty.
Then we got to our table. Both my father and my aunt had taken a large handful of straws - way more than would ever be used by the eight people at our table. They explained to me that they do this every time - so they'll always have straws in the car. I cringed a little. Then my aunt opened her pocketbook (I know, I know - but it's such an awesome word. And might actually be applicable here) and dumped in two handfuls of Sweet 'n Low packets. For her morning coffees for the week. At this point I'm trying to disappear under the table. My mom ate dessert first because, to finish the platitude, life is uncertain.
We carried our own trays to the table, but there were servers who kept our glasses full (we had these teeny tiny little itty bitty little teeny tiny little water glasses - like juice glasses - only smaller - glorified shot glasses, actually) and brought us boxes for our leftovers as well as extra flatware and napkins - they were very helpful without being intrusive. (to the best of my knowledge, no flatware or napkins left the premises in any of my family members pockets or pocketbooks - but I won't swear to it...)
When the time came to leave, my father put $2 on the table. The other gentleman who was with us did the same. I reached for my wallet, as did two of the other ladies. My parents insisted that we put them away. That it had been taken car of. $4. For eight not exactly low-maintenance people.
I HOPE I don't have to tell you I snuck some money on the table as I walked out. With my head bowed and my tail between my legs.
I bet if my sister could have seen me at that moment, she would have laughed and laughed...