Sunday, March 1 2020

blueberry muffins, remote control cars, jackpots, and bad waiters

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! It feels good to roll over into a new month, doesn't it? And where I'm writing this, the sun is warm, and stepping outside I can feel every ounce of this hgih-of-fifty-degrees weather. Way to go, March of twenty-twenty. You're off to a strong start - keep it up.

After rolling out of bed around 8:30, I threw on my hoodie and made a quick drive to Hy-Vee. We needed some things for breakfast, but most importantly, our stash of Marissa's choice pregnancy craving - the irreplaceable and addictive Hy-Vee Blueberry Muffins (with the sugar coating) - was completely depleted. Careful now, I muttered to myself carrying the groceries into the house. Still half asleep, I was imagining the scene from Balto where they unload the life saving serum off of the sled - an apt analogy that really captures how important these muffins are to Marissa, I think.

I got to simultaneously cleaning the kitchen, putting groceries away, and cooking breakfast. I clarified some butter, preheated the oven, and whipped up a batch of Dutch baby batter. I laid a half pound of bacon on the skillet and clambered on a chair to remove the batteries from our smoke detector.

Somewhere in the middle of my Sunday breakfast routine, Rodney barrelled down the stairs and happily greeted me. He had in hand a tiny remote control car that he had won at Dave & Buster's the night before. "Morning DADA," he chirped, still in his PJ's. "Open it for me?"

"Sure dude," I replied, checking the bacon quietly sizzling on the stove from the corner of my eye. I pried the truck free of its plastic and cardboard restraints. "We need some batteries," I said, whipping open the kitchen drawer and digging around for the screwdriver set. The bacon began to sizzle more loudly as I found the appropriately sized phillips head. I grabbed a pair of tongs and gingerly turned each strip of bacon, then dabbed up the grease with a wadded paper towel before kneeling down to finish assembling the car. I imagined I was disarming a bomb, and with clarified butter smoking in the oven, hot bacon on the stove, and an anxious toddler waiting to play with his new car toy, that was easy to imagine. "There," I said, setting the car on the table. I wrapped my fingers around the controller and applied pressure to the tiny joysticks. The car whirred to life. I handed Rodney the controller before he excitedly ran after the car.

At last, I set the table for breakfast. Marissa sleepily wandered into the dining room and grabbed a cup of coffee. A smile spread across her face when she saw two packs of her muffins waiting on the counter. "Let's eat," I said, pulling the skillet out of the oven.

"This is a we're not leaving the house for a while kind of breakfast," I said taking off my apron and joining everyone at the table.

We needed a big meal this morning. Last night, we went out to eat at our favorite BBQ place, and the experience went down hill. We were hoping to get in and out relatively quickly, saving plenty of time for video games at Dave & Busters. But 45 minutes into patiently waiting at our table, the light hearted joking turned bitter. "The people behind us are eating," said Marissa, gesturing with her eyes. I nodded. "Yeah," I replied. "And the people behind us finished. We sat down the same time they did." Marissa caught the waiter standing by the bar. He looked like he was urgently trying to get a word in. "Ah," said Marissa. "He forgot to put our food in."

The host emerged from the kitchen with a tiny plate of fries and a few ribs. "This is from the kitchen," he said. "Sorry about the wait, the cook said he wanted the kid to have something to eat." Marissa took the plate, and we all nibbled on fries while Marissa scraped the meat off the bones. The host reappeared, this time with his attention to me.

"Bad news for you," he said. "We're out of ribs, was there something you wanted instead?" I laughed, glancing at Rodney's plate. "Dude, what an honor," I joked. "You got the last ribs." I turned to the host. "I guess I'll have the brisket."

The host, our waiter, and other people from the kitchen appeared moments later with a fleet of plates. Our waiter handed me a second beer, the shortly after the bartender approached our table with the same beer. "I think that's a duplicate," I said gesturing at my full glass of beer. The bartender offered it to Marissa, who meekly turned it away. She remained at the side of our table for a moment, trying to convince me to drink it, mumbling something about how it's already on the table. "I don't want it," I said a little more assertively.

Marissa took Rodney to the bathroom, and as I said eating my plate, from the corner of my eye I could see the host and the waiter staring at me while I ate. The waiter made a few conspicuous laps around the dining room, either glancing at me or asking me how things were each time he passed. I started to get agitated with the extra attention. It was clear our waiter was overcompensating in the spirit of damage control, and I hated how it felt.

We paid or tab and left. We had about a half hour to play games at Dave & Busters, and for a while it felt good to forget about our dinner experience. Rodney played a spin-to-win game and scored a jackpot earning him a free spin. An electronic alarm bell resounded through the arcade, as the blinking and jittering screen flashed 1000 POINTS. Rodney spun the wheel again. Jackpot again. The alarm rang much more loudly like a fire alarm with the same sustained ringing for two minutes while the machine slowly counted up to 2000 points. I half expected the Dave & Busters bouncers to come out of the back room as people walked by, openly complaining about the alarm noise. "This machine is HOT!" I yelled, as we wandered away to find another game. With almost 4000 points to spend at the end of our brief gaming session, the entire gift shop was his oyster. He picked an extra large sticky hand, a dinosaur hand puppet, and a remote control car. "THANK YOU," he yelled in a tiny voice over the roar of the busy arcade. The girl at the counter beamed back at him, waving us on.

After getting home, Marissa put Rodney to bed, then we both got to cleaning up the house. Suddenly realizing how late it was, I started to feel angry. We had spent most of the night waiting for our food at the BBQ place. As I stood in the kitchen washing dishes and putting food away, my thoughts raced. My teeth gritted as I mentally rehearsed reaming out the waiter that had forgotten to put our order in. Marissa's muffled voice could be heard in the kitchen. "What?" I said sharply, turning off the sink and leaning into the dining room. "I can't hear you from in there, I have no idea what you're saying." Marissa became sad, staring down at the ground.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I'm really upset about dinner tonight, and I need to talk about it." I continued to think while cleaning for a little while longer. After reaching a stopping point, she joined me on the couch with a bottle of water. "I've been screaming at that waiter in my head. I think I'm really angry and bitter, and after thinking about it, I think it clicked," I said. Marissa patiently listened on the couch.

"I'm actually mad at myself for not sticking up for us. I know we joke about how we have bad luck with waiters and eating out, but I'm worried that we're pushovers, you know?" Marissa nodded.

"We like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but you're right, you have a point," she said.

"I'm just so upset that we left that place, and I was the one who felt crummy. That place should have been embarrassed, it took us an hour to get our food, and we had a three year old sitting at the table. Rodney went to bed late, we had less time at the arcade - it kind of messed up the whole night. We wanted to finish putting the house back tonight." I said, wringing my hands in frustration.

"You're right," said Marissa. "We should have made a plan, and walked away. Yelling at the waiter wouldn't have solved anything, but absolutely should have just left."

I perked up. "Yeah, I like that," I said. "Next time this happens, I think we should just leave. I should have walked over to our waiter and just said 'Hey, this took way too long, and I'm sorry but we're leaving,'. I wouldn't have to make a scene out of it, but at least I don't just hold onto the frustration and take it out on you."

" - not that it's their fault I snipped at you," I continued. "I'm sorry about that."

I feel good about where we left things, and I'm grateful Marissa had the wisdom to help us find a middle ground. "Let's just have a plan next time," she repeated like a refrain. I nodded. "This feels good. I feel like I would normally just hold onto this anger. I should have acted, and left all this at the restaurant."

Thanks for stopping by today. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.