Archived Story

Where do you want to eat the next meal?

Published 9:45am Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Column: Tales from Exit 22, by Al Batt

It started out innocently enough.

We were traveling along in the car when, I said, “Are you hungry?”

“I could eat.”

Things had been good. We’d been singing every song the radio played until I posed that chronic question.

I wasn’t hungry, even though the bowl of oatmeal I’d had for breakfast was a vague memory. I wanted to start the decision making process early because by the time we decided where to eat, I would be hungry.

I remembered another day. There were two cafes by the same name in the town — one north, the other south. We agreed to meet at one of them for dinner. Unfortunately, we weren’t that specific as to which side of town we’d be meeting. My wife went to one eatery and I went to the other sharing the name. This was during those unenlightened years known as the pre-cellphone era.

We each waited alone. I spent my time fending off a waitress anxious to do her job, reading a book, tapping my foot and checking my watch. My wife did the same. It finally dawned on me that my bride might have gone to the wrong restaurant. Being a guy, I knew that I was at the right location. I used the cafe’s telephone to call the cafe’s other site and they paged my wife. She wasn’t there. She wasn’t there because she’d figured I’d gone to the wrong place and she was driving to where I was. That would have been a great plan, had I stayed there. I had hopped into my car and headed toward the cafe where my wife had been because I thought she might show up there.

We were two ships passing in the night. We didn’t meet because we took different roads. Failing to find the other, we each went home. All roads lead to home, not Rome.

Despite an experience like that, I’d opened the “where do you want to eat” can.

“Where do you want to eat?”

“Wherever you want to eat is fine with me,” I said.

“I picked last time. You pick.”

“Somewhere good.”

“What sounds good to you?”

We were in a large city. There were more restaurants than road signs. Some restaurants were common, some unfamiliar. Some were pedestrian. Others were curious or odd. Some we had dined at before. Others were mysteries. That’s not saying for sure that we hadn’t eaten there before. Restaurants are like all of life’s experiences. We remember some, but forget most.

I tried to think of a place that I really wanted to go.

“I don’t care.”

That wasn’t the right thing to say. I knew that, but the more I learn, the less I know.

“How about that place?” I pointed.

“We always go there.”

“We never go there.”

“Well, there must be a reason we never go there.”

“Pizza?”

“We had it yesterday.”

“How about sushi?”

“Sushi? Please. I can’t eat sushi. I used to work at a bait shop.”

“How about a buffet?”

“A buffet isn’t worth it unless we have younger family members with us. We can’t eat enough ourselves.”

“Do we have a coupon?”

“We always have a coupon. It’s always of the variety known as ‘expired.’”

So many choices. Specials, expansive menus, fast, slow, and places where when I see the menus, I wish I’d brought along something to eat. Those with a simple fee structure — they charge per french fry. Places featuring baked beans on toast prepared by square dancers. Ritzy establishments with dim lights that make it difficult to see the high prices. My wife favors those joints because she likes a man who isn’t afraid to cry.

If I’m wearing a necktie, I like to eat something that matches the food stains on the tie. I like a nice quiet place where I don’t have to use my outdoor voice and am at a safe distance from any TV blasting away at a high volume. I like a place that has a pile of newspapers to read. I like my servers to be attentive, but not intrusive. I don’t want the water to taste funny and I don’t need a toy with my meal.

“Are you listening to me?” My wife has questions that she has nothing better to do with but ask.

“Yes.”

“What was the last thing I said?” she asked another question.

“It was, ‘What was the last thing I said?’”

I have learned that if two people love each other, nothing is impossible. Except deciding where to eat.
Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.