of fondues and fear

Today, my morning began with an afternoon. As in, I awoke to the melodious sound of a beautiful new Sunday: the 12PM lawnmower guy loudly proclaiming his presence, leaving a rain of mutilated grass bits in his wake. Right outside my window.

Not a pretty picture, but then again, nothing about my “mornings” is ever pretty.

Anyway, I hadn’t even been conscious for a full two hours before Mom announced our dinner plans for a fancy downtown fondue place. Fancy enough to imply the necessity of formal clothing but casual enough to be offering Groupons (aka my family’s first consideration in choosing restaurants).

Me: Can’t we eat dinner when normal people eat dinner?

Mom: As in…?

Me: As in, not when someone can still justify his meal as late lunch. As in, around 7PM. As in, not now.

Mom: But it won’t be now. We’ve got to drive there.

She wanted to leave at 3:30. I wanted to leave at 6:00. So, as is often the norm in this household, we compromised and left at 3:30.

Although, looking back, it was probably for the best that we did—we ended up staying there for 2.5+ hours. I can break down the entire experience into four parts: thirty minutes spent agonizing over the overly extensive menu, thirty minutes spent waiting for our waiter—he’d often start down our aisle and immediately turn tail as if he’d remembered an urgent task he’d forgotten to do, like deliver our orders to the kitchen or something—and approximately one hour of post-meal regret.

And, of course, that last half hour of pure, unadulterated fear.

Because after things begin to wind down, when our stomachs cannot physically expand any further and fondue begins to look a lot like fon-don’t (I’m so sorry), Mom reaches into her purse and gasps.

I blanch, because this has happened before and I know exactly what this means, even though I really wish I didn’t. “No. No. Please say you didn’t—“

“I can’t find my wallet,” she whispers. “Do you have any—”

“Oh yeah, let me just reach into my pocket and pull out this hundred-dollar bill I conveniently carry around for no reason,” is what I want to say. But I don’t, because a) my jeans don’t have pockets, and b) she’s holding a skewer in her right hand and a knife in her left.

Instead, I—surprising even myself—take a deep breath and calmly assess the situation. “Okay, could it be in the car? Or do you have another credit card in there we could use? If I stay in here, they’ll probably let you out to go get it.”

She considers this for a moment. “No, I went to a party, so it’s in my other bag.”

Ignoring the fact that this is probably the third party she’s been to in just the past three days, I try something different. “How about this: we both go up there and fess up. We—and by we, I mostly mean you—give them all the cash we’ve got on our person along with all our contact and personal information. Maybe throw in a shoe. Or your phone, to assure them you’ll pay them back in full later. Like collateral.”

Mom looks skeptical. “That won’t work. They won’t let us out.”

“Look, that was our 6th grade library system, all right? It works fine.”

We continue to sit around, sweating bullets and keeping our eyes trained straight on our food whenever servers pass our booth. I scroll through my phone contacts for someone who might be willing to drive all the way down here and bail us out.

After a couple of minutes, I give up. I mean, I wouldn’t do that for me, either.

Five minutes later, Mom digs out a random hundred-dollar bill from the recesses of her purse. It makes no sense, but I don’t question it.

Mom is not as quick to count her blessings. “Ugh,” she whines, “but I need my credit card! I have to use it more in order to get that cash back reward—”

I all but drag her out of the restaurant.

***

You know what, I’m actually exhausted right now—which makes no sense considering how I’ve only been awake for 11 hours—so if that’s not enough closure for you, I apologize.


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