perspective

How Close is Too Close?

I went to dinner the other night at a local restaurant. We were seated at the center table. No masks required as we were dining. Seems simple. Just the new normal we are used to.

Then my daughter said “we aren’t distanced like we should be.” I looked around. What did she see that I didn’t? I mean I’m telecommuting most days while she is in physical school distanced and masked 8 hours a day following rules, new rules and more rules each day. Her perspective is clearly different than mine based on our exposures to date. Weird that the child is teaching the parent.

She said “this table isn’t 6 feet. Those booths are not spaced. It’s not distanced like it should be.” Wow. I paused and thought to myself how much she has changed due to the pandemic. Will we ever get back to normal? Will I actually be able to hear a waitress ask me about my order where I can understand her without a full mask?

My elderly mom was dining with me. The menu was a scanned barcode. That’s pretty high tech for her but it’s the only option. She can’t see the screen as well as me to order. Sigh. Sigh deeper. This is what is normal. Will there be a return of paper menus?

The next day my daughter calls for an early dismissal from school. A neighboring student is potentially a covid exposure. “I can’t sit in class for more than 15 mins or I’ll get close contact,” she said. What? “If I get close contact then I’ll have to miss social activities.” What?

So today I learned about close contact. Secondary contact. Confirmed cases. Contact cases. Exceptions. Rules. Suspected cases. And. And. And. I’m exhausted just digesting this information. Technically I knew these scenarios but not up close. To the point of sidelining one of my family members.

It’s football season. Homecoming. All the things high schoolers look forward to. So many instances of socializing being scrutinized, cancelled, postponed and so on. I’m going nuts keeping up with changes on the calendar and it’s driving me bat shit crazy that it’s emotionally hitting my kid.

Spring was tough enough with isolation for a teen. Now a new level of toughness is needed to combat the stress and anxiety that’s goes along with adapting to so much change in your formative years. The years of milestones. First kisses. Dates. Driving. Team sports. School events. College visits.

I am hopeful that the new year brings peace to not only my child but all kids enduring so much stress as a rippling effect of the pandemic. Developing brains can only handle so much and parents are also battling their own demons in the workplace, on the home front and just in society in general.

Just my random recap post. The blah of the week and it just started with just 6 feet. How much difference 6 feet can actually make. And how my differences could be so different than another’s. #perspective

business, Uncategorized

Dining In Dining Out

I sat down to write this post and came into a few roadblocks. Nothing major just my perception or perspective. I decided this was important to write about.

In a recent post Chick 2 referenced her vantage point in the restaurant industry as a family-owned business. My post today will be as a patron.

I dined out a few times at local establishments during the pandemic shutdown. My hopes were to make an impact and to break up the mundane on the home front. It worked for the most part.

I bought pastries from a local bakery. I bought curbside pickup at a chain and tipped big. I took to go orders at the small mom-and-pops. I even hit a franchise or two.

Now that things are starting to open up I decided to dine out. Well my first choice was closed. A bigger chain but one of my favs. I looked for another local fav spot that a friend managed and that too was closed for dine in. Then I thought well I’ll just grab something elsewhere with disappointment.

When all was crumbling around me with lack of options I saw a Mexican place open that I had never been to. I decided to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.

As I entered the facility I saw floor markings noting 6 feet apart. I saw a plastic protector by the hostess stand. I saw a make shift to-go pickup area with tables in use that were normally for dining. It seemed odd.

I took my seat. I observed. Every other booth was taped off for my protection. Tables were spread apart in the floor area. The servers were masked like healthcare workers. Does that kill your vibe to eat food? I was just rolling with the experience.

I couldn’t stop watching the to-go area. It had a table lined with to-go margaritas. Filled in 1/2 gallon milk jug type containers. They were labeled and sealed but never would I have seen this pre-corona. They sold like hot cakes with the to-go order. Interesting concept to generate revenue and make do with the new normal.

It was hard to understand the waiter. Was he annoyed or smiling? So many thoughts crossed my mind. The food arrived. It was delicious. My worries went away with the comfort and presentation of the meal.

Fresh cut slivers of avocado were the highlight of my meal. Fresh chips and salsa. The sounds of conversations and other humans around me. It was a new normal and a bit weird but it was a good first step. These are the vibes you can’t replace at home. And no clean up!

Mother’s Day came and went. A holiday normally spent at a restaurant but not this year. Nobody in my family wanted to dine out. A barbecue at home it was for this family. A picnic for another group I knew. A day on the lake for others. A work day for others whose family runs a restaurant.

I wondered about the financial effects of not only corona but on the restaurant industry itself on such a day like Mother’s Day. Some of these establishments need those holiday highs to maintain the lulls of other parts of the year.

I will continue to eat out when I can. If my budget allows. If my community stays open. If opportunity presents itself. So many ifs in the world today.

Are you dining in or out today?

business, challenges

A View From Behind the Mask

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I don’t bring it up often, but my family is in the restaurant business.  My husband and I met when I came to work at his family’s restaurant when I was 20 years old. I was taking a mental health break from college for a semester and needed a job, so I stumbled in to a local restaurant and ended up working there on and off for over a decade.  That’s a story for another time.

Suffice it to say, I have worked the front of the house in a restaurant for a lot of my life.  Server, bartender, hostess, manager, banquet server, retail sales, I’ve done it.  I have learned that it is not the life for me. (Add that to the list of stories for another time.)  Still, my husband’s restaurant is a huge part of our family economy, so there are certain days every year when I go to work and pitch in. Father’s Day, Oktoberfest celebrations, and so on.  Mother’s Day is usually one of those days.

As you likely know, the restaurant business has been radically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many establishments are closed.  Others are trying take-out, delivery, family-style offerings, and whatever else they can cook up. Heck, some are even offering grocery-style shopping. Pivoting quickly to focus on survival.

It was just recently that Georgia decided to allow restaurant dining rooms to open with detailed, extensive safety measures and very limited capacity.  We are lucky to have a restaurant with a large dining room. Other restaurants may not even be able to try to open their dining areas just because of the safety measures and square footage requirements.

This Mother’s Day was the first time our dining room had been open in well over a month.  My daughter and I were pinch hitting to help things run smoothly. Here are just a few of the rules: Paper menus instead of plastic sleeves so they could be disposed of each use. Gloves…I think I changed my gloves 50 times during a 6-hour shift. No bringing pitchers to the table to refill any drinks.  Just bring a new fresh glass. Spread guests out at every third table or so.  No groups over six people, which is often the minimum number for many tables on Mother’s Day at our place. Deep cleaning all surfaces…we scrubbed tabletops and every part of every chair anyone touched with sanitizer all shift. Since we couldn’t use our typical tablecloths, this was a lengthy chore. When done, we left a card on the table letting customers know it had been thoroughly cleaned.

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Maybe the biggest change was the masks.  I had a coworker from my school make me cloth masks to wear a while ago.  They are more or less comfortable.  They are much better than the awkward constricting bandana I tried at the beginning of corona. Still, after a while with the mask on you find yourself breathing differently.  It’s always sweaty and warm under there.  I was breathing more heavily, like I was working out or something, after just a minute with the mask on.  It was a relief to take it off every once in a while, or just let my nose peek out for 30 seconds or so.  Apparently it’s even worse if you wear glasses.

I wondered, could people tell if I was smiling at them? I do smile with my eyes but I’m still not sure. (No comment on my overgrown eyebrows which are tragic, or the bags under my eyes!) I wore more eye makeup thinking that would be the part people could see.

I learned quickly that most guests couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I spoke less and less as the shift wore on.  I hardly wished anyone Happy Mother’s Day, which is usually a big part of my job being the “Comfortable Committee” on those days.  I suppose I was just caught up in the strangeness of it all.  It didn’t feel festive.  Not many dressed for church.  No tables filled with gifts or flowers for the Moms. Only a handful of photos taken. The dining rooms weren’t crammed with smiling faces.  (And we are usually wall-to-wall with a waiting list for hours on Mother’s Day.)  It felt tense, with our focus on staying safe and sterile over warm and welcoming. It is what is needed right now. We want our customers to feel safe with us. Still, it is very different than the atmosphere in most years.

Just an insider’s view of what it’s like to work in a restaurant for Mother’s Day during the pandemic. Thankfully, we had quite a few people dine with us and many families took brunch and sweets to go.  This daily income is truly a lifeline for your local restaurants.

Sadly, when I got home from working, I read a long string of complaints and disappointments on social media from people who had waited hours for food ordered from major chains. Steakhouses, southern cooking, seafood, you name it.  All took enormous numbers of online orders and the system broke down.  People waited and waited, no one answering the phone, no one updating them.  When only a few miles away we had tables sitting empty and cooks and servers ready to make great food! It won’t always be perfect, but please give your local places a chance.

Our family’s place has been the site of engagements, weddings, showers, celebrations of all kinds and so many other special occasions. Please support those quirky, unique little places now.  Support the ones that hold your memories, even if it is a little strange to do these days.  If they are able to open at all, they are likely working their tails off to keep you safe and keep their business alive and employees working.  If you can, please dine with your favorite local places! Support the places you want to see come out the other side of this challenge with your dollars, your social media buzz, and any other support you can offer.

 

 

perspective

Just Call Me Clueless!

It was a Saturday, many months ago. I was out for a casual lunch with two of my bestie girls at a swanky new restaurant. Giggling up a storm and chit-chatting away. Not a care in the world. Conscious of my surroundings but not intrigued by anything beyond my bench table of three, myself included.

Then it happened. Two random ladies pop over to the table and say “hey, don’t I know you?” Hmm, I don’t think so…

As a social person, I entertain the dialogue. Fast forward to a few casual pick-up lines. A few invasive personal questions. Something about can I have your phone number. What just happened?

Yes people, I was picked up by two women while having lunch with my two married friends while I sat in my semi-private booth at a restaurant!

In shock I am. Why me? Do I have a stamp on my forehead that says available? I wasn’t dressed fancy. I had no makeup on and literally just got done spending time at a park thus I didn’t even have a fresh scent on me. Just basically what I would refer to as a hot mess.

I was clueless. I wasn’t in a bar. I wasn’t acting flirtatious. I was just clueless overall. My friends were on top of it though. I guess I didn’t catch their eye glances or gritting of teeth from across the table. I was speechless. Would you know if another female hit on you? How about two?

Just putting this question out there. I wasn’t anticipating this scenario and am now turned off by the restaurant and seem guarded in general with people. I haven’t been back since the encounter. And clearly I wrote about this scenario so it weighed on my mind.

I shouldn’t feel this way but I do. I’ve sat on this post for many months. As the new year approaches, I said now or never. I’m going to post this awkward encounter to see if I get any feedback.

Life is full of adventures and unexpected encounters. This scenario falls under unexpected but also makes me wonder on many levels.

Have you had any unexpected encounters or pick-up attempts that caught you off-guard?

For now I will always wonder about the why of this situation. Why me? Why that restaurant? Why, oh why?

Happy New Year to all. May your 2020 be as amazing as you dream it should be.