Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dining Out

S and I decided to go for dinner the other night –she had heard from her hair dresser that Piata, up on Edmonton Trail, was a kid-friendly place. (We have Trails instead of Boulevards or Freeways in Calgary – a relic from our not-so-distant pioneer settlements when they actually were trails to various locations. Now most of them are named after local first nations bands, but Edmonton Trail actually went to Edmonton not so long ago).

We arranged to go there early to avoid the dinner rush. Off I went, offspring tucked into his car seat and me all excited at the thought of a Dinner Out (yes, they have become special treats instead of the norm. sigh.) When we reached there, of course, the somewhat small parking lot was already full.

“Could you go check out the lineup?” I asked, “I won’t unpack Samuel unless they have a spot - if we have to wait I’d rather go somewhere else”

A couple of minutes later my phone rang

“It’s alright, come on in”

The restaurant is located on an up and coming street in an up and coming neighbourhood, which I idiotically moved out of two years ago (was it only two? Maybe three now) and which I grieve about every time I go there. I used to live a few blocks from my brother and his family, and we both eventually moved away further south (commonly considered the “wrong” side of the river by us north-of-the-river types). Anyway my SIL Andrea and I mope inconsolably whenever we have reason to drive back to the hood. The houses we used to live in are now astronomically expensive (as is everything in Calgary courtesy of the real estate insanity that is going on) so there is no hope we’ll ever be able to move back there. Not until we get old and rich and move into a monster house with several other old biddies and eight or ten cats.

…where was I? oh yes, I was looking for a parking spot in the old familiar streets and since I had Samuel in the car seat I wanted something near by – which, if you’ve ever had to lug a car seat around with the requisite 15 pound infant in it, you know amounts to a 30 pound load. Not conducive to hiking residential streets, and the stroller was not an option – I knew the restaurant would be fairly small inside, the hood being what it is and the building older.

Since I knew my way around I deked through the alley to park behind a small strip mall – the businesses being closed for the evening, I thought it was an ideal solution. I got out of my car and staggered around to the other side to extricate offspring.

Just as I locked up, I heard a voice call out “You know you might get towed there. It’s private property.”

I look up. Way up. Ensconced in an upper story window abutting the alleyway was a woman. What, might you ask, was she DOING, looking out of an upper story window into the alley? Undoubtedly her evening entertainment, sitting up there, monitoring traffic for absentee business owners. Some people just watch TV. She was a Concerned Citizen. That’s what happens when you have a stunningly uninteresting life, I expect. I mumbled some non-committal response about dropping off the baby and walked away. On further reflection I thought I better do exactly that, I didn’t put it past her to actually call the tow truck for extra entertainment.
I lurched into the restaurant with the intent of asking S. to move the car. As soon as I entered I felt a qualm arise. It was a small one as qualms go, generated largely by the quiet atmosphere, the tablecloths and lotus-shaped folded napkins, the classical music and adult patrons. Uh-oh, said small qualm. What if Samuel wakes up? What if he grunts, farts and squawks like small babies do in their sleep? I could just imagine the disapproving stares boring into the back of my head.

I decided to chance it. S. offered to look after Samuel while I moved the car, which I did, and I sat down and ordered a nice glass of white wine.

“this is probably your worst nightmare, eh?” says S. to the server, waving toward Samuel

“No,” he says, “the worst is when they have legs and run around the place trying to talk to everyone and eat off the servery” He looks doubtfully at Sam. “At least he won’t be mobile.”
I groan quietly to myself.

Status: baby still sleeping. No squirms or grunts. I sigh in relief and look over the menu. It’s more pricey than I’m accustomed to these days, but par for the course in a trendy adult restaurant. Most of the ingredients are familiar enough, though I can’t say the thought of blue cheese and eggplant sounds particularly attractive. I don’t mind eggplant, in fact it’s yummy in baba ganoush, but blue cheese? Yuk.

“oh my god. This is SO nice!!” I say to S, “just what I like!” (back when I had a life, I think to myself, and then immediately edit the thought – I DO have a life, just not my old one)

“do you think he’s going to make it?” says S.

“well, we can have a couple of appies and then decide whether to eat here or not. I don’t want to disturb the rest of the people” sez I. “we can head for the diner if he gets fussy in the meantime.”

Two sips into the wine, Samuel grunts experimentally and opens his eyes with the eagle-eyed look of a hungry baby. “there’s a breast full of milk around here somewhere, I can smell it!” more grunting. “You may notice I’m still being polite, so whip it out or I’ll up the decibel level!”

I consider trying the soother, but it’s not likely to work for long. I unstrap him from the car seat and latch him onto the nearest breast. More grunts, of the satisfied variety. “Service is not bad at this restaurant, Mum”. I start praying he won’t have a belly full of gas when he’s done, but as usual he’s drinking like he’s in a beer chugging competition and the prognosis is not good.

“we’d better go”, I sigh “he’s not going to make it through the appies”

The waiter shimmers over. “Have you decided?”

I have a brain fart. “yes, we’ll have the eggplant (sans fromage bleu) and the riblets to start”

“Um, Z, weren’t we just leaving?” says S.

“Eep! Oh yeah. I forgot. I’ll go cancel the order”. I dash after the waiter and cancel the order. He heaves a sigh of relief that we’re going, and puts the wine bill on the house. I take one more sip just to savour the moment, and we head over to the diner.

It’s bright, cheerful, full of noise, and has two other babies squawking happily at other tables. I finally relax and order a glass of wine just to say I did. Maybe it ain’t what I’d have picked two months ago, but at least I can enjoy myself without constant paranoia. And although I had a burger instead of the gourmet pasta, the lemon meringue pie made up for it.