We should have taken a clue from the parking lot.
Cars were backed up to get in, but Ted didn’t hesitate. After all, we had planned on beating the dinner crowd. Who in their right mind would be going out for dinner at 5:30 on Saturday?
Several people were leaving with what looked to be take-out. Maybe there would be room inside. A parking space opened up and Ted went ahead to put our name on the list.
“We’re looking at an hour,” he came back to report before we climbed the stairs to enter the restaurant.
It was time for a powwow.
My daughter Diana and her daughter Natalie were visiting for the weekend. Erica, Ted’s wife, and their twins, Sydney and Alex rounded out the group.
“It’s usually not as long as they say,” rationalized Ted.
“Is there anything else close by?” Diana questioned.
Ted, who knows South County, ran through the possibilities. None sounded as good as where we were.
“The girls want to see the Halloween decorations. We hear they are really good,” offered Erica. The twins confirmed her assessment.
“Well, let’s at least look at the decorations as long as we’re here,” said Ted.
The foyer was packed. People leaned on the front counter to give the count for their party before being handed a pager that would light up when their table was available.
About a dozen people sat on benches lining an alcove. Many were children. The adults conversed. Most kids were glued to iPads and phones playing electronic games. Others wore bored expressions.
It looked tolerable. Maybe we would get lucky and the wait wouldn’t be as estimated.
We wedged into the bench with the others. Our companions in waiting didn’t volunteer any information. Had they already been there for an hour?
Ted handed Sydney his phone so she could play “Minecraft.” Her sister and Natalie watched, knowing they would get their turns.
When you have an hour to burn, conversation wanders.
We caught up on family news and then Diana, who is a physical therapist, got on the topic of posture and how critical that can be to pain. Erica and I plied her with questions and soon she was giving us a talk on anatomy. People around us grew silent. They were listening.
“Minecraft” lasted for about a half-hour. The girls played with the bracelets they wove from rubber bands and looked around. I thought, for sure, their patience was wearing thin. But Ted had plans.
He started a game we played when he was a kid. It’s simple and, for lack of a better name, we call it “slap hand.” One player holds their hands out, palms up, while the other places theirs on top, palms down. The bottom player attempts to slap the hands of the top player. They reverse roles if the bottom player fails to connect. The girls caught on in no time. Ted took a lot of hand slapping. It didn’t stop there.
Kids looked up from their iPads and were soon asking to play the game, too.
But, even “slap hand” wears thin and another 25 minutes, which we figured we had, would be intolerable.
We moved on to “rock…paper…scissors.” That lasted for several minutes until the next challenge, that of wiggling designated fingers while having one’s hands gripped and reversed in front of you. Diana, of course, had an explanation for why it can be difficult. She said motor planning, where the brain is trained to connect with visual input, is fooled by the reversal of the fingers. There were fascinated looks from our companions in waiting.
That took us off on another tangent, although, by now, an hour was gone. Ted checked at the counter and returned with the report that a table was being cleared. Any moment, now, the pager that Sydney was holding would start flashing, or so we imagined.
After another 10 minutes, Erica was ready to call it quits and head home for frozen pizza. We all started to think that was a good idea. Not Sydney. She went to the counter.
She returned to report the people had finished and were now sitting and talking. We rejected thoughts of standing over them until they got the picture we were hungry, when the pager lit up.
We just about stampeded to a booth overlooking the crowded room. There was no dallying over the menu; everyone was ready to eat. There was more waiting, but nothing like the hour and 10 minutes we already spent. And, when we finally left, it was after 8 and the third game of the World Series was featured on wide screens across the room. It had taken almost two and a half hours for a dinner of chicken nuggets, burgers, French fries and drinks.
As we made our way to the car, Natalie chirped, “That was fun.” We all agreed.