I ended last week’s Musing with a photo of the bathtub at our hotel. That was a great soak. That particular late afternoon, I conducted the business of making dinner reservations for seventeen from that hot bubbly tub.
In Lincoln, New Hampshire, very few restaurants take reservations. Instead, you can call ahead and put your name on the list. It would seem they equate this with you walking in and saying “I need a table for eight” to which they reply that there is an hour wait. So if you call at five, you may be told that the soonest you can be seated is six. Basically, by putting your name on their list, you wait in the comfort of your own space until 5:45 rather than lolling around at the entrance of the restaurant or standing at a crowded bar dodging elbows for forty-five minutes.
We were traveling with gymnastics families, so at its peak, we had twenty-four in our community. Ordering pizza in was the best bet for this group at the beginning of the week. A couple nights later, the majority of us decided to eat out. I volunteered to put our name on the list for 6:00 or 6:30 p.m. at a highly recommended local hamburger joint. One table for eight adults and one for nine kids. I called at 4:00, knowing from an attempted booking the day before that if I waited until 5:00 to call, we wouldn’t be seated until 7:30 or 8:00. Which might mean 8:30. At four o’clock on the dot, I called only to learn that I couldn’t put my name on the list for a specific time; rather, I had to call at just the right time to hit that elusive target time I wanted our groups to be seated.
From the bubbles, I called every fifteen minutes, changing the pitch and pace of my voice each time until I nailed the time. Still the semi-reservation was complicated… No guarantee that groups would be seated at the same time or near one another, and we might still be split up into smaller groups. With so many conditions, our group re-grouped. Six adults went out for dinner. I think that’s a good number to do dinner with under these “call-ahead” conditions. Kids happily ate in and the adults had a just-long-enough wait sitting on a cozy couch before being seated. In the end, six friends squeezed into a booth and laughed most of the evening between bites of brie & bacon or teriyaki burgers.
The next night we were in need of dinner for twelve. Friends staying at a different location suggested Chinese and that they would pick it up and bring it to our room at the hotel. I volunteered to organize. Remembering the hotel had given us a list of local restaurants when we checked in, I found Imperial Palace on the list, plopped it into a Google search, and then sent the menu link to all families. They texted their selections, and I called in the sixteen items, paid for the order with my credit card, and retreated to the tub again to sooth sore muscles. I had a half hour. I needed that half hour.
My phone rang several minutes into the soak. It was Bill. “We think you placed the order at a restaurant in Lincoln, Nebraska!”
I hit “Recents” on my phone and re-dialed the Imperial Palace.
“Where are you located?”
“Oh no! I’m the one who placed that big order twenty minutes ago! I’m in Lincoln, NEW HAMPSHIRE!!”
“Hold on… STOP THAT ORDER!” he shouted to his kitchen.
I braced myself for his response to me.
“No worries. It’s happened before. I’ll credit your card.”
How kind this man was not to yell at me. His response really could have taken the evening a whole other direction.
From the tub, I sent a short cuss text to Bill, confirming my error.
Then, I texted confirmation of my error to all the parents, including our friends out driving around between Chinese restaurants. I begged for someone else to take over the ordering responsibilities. An organized dad called the Imperial Palace in Lincoln, New Hampshire and placed the same order. I got out of the tub, leaving behind one of the most unpleasant baths ever. Dinner arrived an hour-and-a-half after the Nebraska order had been placed.
Fortunately, I was with friends. Forgiving friends. Humorous friends. Friends who will long remember ordering Chinese from Lincoln, Nebraska. One cleverly texted me a photo of the ever elusive Nebraskan potsticker.
Years ago, when the question “why” spilled so easily from preschoolers in my life – my own and the children of friends and family – I would stop the repetitive questions for which I didn’t know the answer with one simple repetitive answer: “because the sky is blue.” I stole that response from someone else I met along the way. These now-teenagers still remember my response and have used it with the young “why”-asking children in their own lives.
“Because the sky is blue” gave me an idea. Rather than linger over this imperfect ordering fiasco, I’ve found a new philosophical answer to an often asked question in our house: “Where is …?” If I don’t know where the object is, my answer shall be “Lincoln, Nebraska.” This answer shall also apply to those grown-ups who are looking for the location of the next gymnastics meet. Or the nearest Chinese restaurant. Lincoln, Nebraska.