June 3, 2020
Adventures in Dining
- I have reservations. In every sense.
- I inquire about the cutoff temperature. It is 100.3-100.4.
- Strangely, it did feel like an adventure.
The restaurant we’re meeting at is inside a casino. I don my mask, as well as gloves, before exiting the car. As I walk through the parking garage toward the doors, a man exits, removing his mask as he does so. He coughs several times. I have reservations. In every sense. I’m thinking perhaps the new rules should be wait to remove masks until you’re back in your car.
The door is automatic, so I make it inside with my gloves virginal. There is nothing between the door and the escalator to the casino floor except two security guards, both masked. They ask that I pull down mine for the security cameras. Then they take my temperature with a touchless model of thermometer. I inquire about the cutoff temperature. It is 100.3-100.4. However, if someone is slightly high, they are allowed to wait five minutes and try once more. My temperature is acceptable on the first go. I’ve always been a good test taker.
I take the escalator down. I don’t see anyone else sporting gloves, but I’ve always been leery about touching things half the world has touched before me. A man going up the other escalator is holding the handrail like a psycho. Although ashtrays are apparent around the casino, smoking is not currently allowed. As far as I can see, no slot machines or tables are blocked off. However, everyone, staff and patrons are wearing masks. Of course, on the walk across the casino floor to the restaurant, I spot two noses that have escaped their confinement.
I am taken to meet my party. Once seated in the restaurant, patrons are allowed to remove their masks. I throw caution to the wind and remove my gloves as well. Unfortunately, I do this before I sit, and have to awkwardly pull my chair out with my feet so I don’t touch it with my hands. Speaking of touching, I am very aware of the fabric of the chair against the back of my legs. I will never wear a skirt in public again. The night is young and I have already made bad choices.
I cannot remember the last time I touched a restaurant menu without at least a mild feeling of disgust. The menus on the table are single use. This at least, should never end. Diners have been spaced around the restaurant as much as possible. There is a table seated behind me, with maybe two or three feet between the backs of our chairs. This is closer than I would like, but at least we are back to back.
Silverware, plates, wine glasses, and such are not on the table. I’m told the new rule is these things do not arrive until they are needed. I very much approve. Of course, the waitstaff had to go back for silverware after they brought the appetizer, but it is new system, and such small errors will settle out with practice.
The light is dim, which we know is common in such venues, but I wouldn’t be averse to a nice spotlight so that I might more fully inspect my water glass. It is suggested by one of my party that I order a drink. Apparently, I am a bit tense. I order a Mai Tai and it is strong. We might just make it through this. Of course, we won’t really know for a couple of weeks.
The tween among us is going to use the facilities. I offer a spare pair of gloves which are accepted. I am on my second drink and notably more relaxed. This is when disaster strikes. I may be the only person who didn’t know this, but a ten-year-old cannot be expected to know proper glove protocol. Gloves that had been into the restroom came back to the table. This feels like one of those moments that stay with you forever.
After we order entrees, our menus are collected and the waiter tears them up in front of us. I tear my own, which is fun. Dinner is delicious, and I actually feel good about the staff’s commitment to safety protocols. As we eat, I watch a waiter change over a table. They are switching out tablecloths, which is great, and another one of those things that should be a permanent change, even if we cure COVID next week.
I go to the restroom to check it out. I’m not ready to actually use public facilities. The door requires touching to open, and the toilet requires touching to flush. The soap and water are automatic. Everyone who I have seen visit the restroom has put their mask on to do so. I’m not sure if others were instructed to do so, as I was not, or if we are just lucky to be dining with others who are taking safety and courtesy seriously.
Because we have a birthday in our party, a dessert is brought out with a candle. The birthday girl waves the flame out with her hands. Again, this is a change worth getting used to. In an unforeseen turn of events, the candle sinks into the whipped cream and is accidentally eaten. It’s always the things you don’t worry about that bite you in the posterior. When the check is brought for signing, it comes with a brand new, wrapped pen that is ours to keep. Two thumbs up.
I was nervous about this dinner. And while I can’t speak for all restaurants, after my initial nervousness, I felt quite good about their efforts to keep us safe. Strangely, it did feel like an adventure. So many things that I’ve done a thousand times felt new and notable, but in a good way. Long story short, we can make this work. We’d love to hear about your recent experiences dining out.