or, my dinner at the Residence Inn this evening.
Apparently the Residence Inn likes to create a homey atmosphere. I guess since some of it's patrons are long-term guests (like the Amish people we see in the elevator daily or the old washed up rock-star guy who was unloading an 18-wheeler into the elevator the other day), they want to foster a sense of community--a kind of Armistead Maupin-esque Tales of the City: The Residence Inn Years.
Along side our door is a calendar with a mixture of local activities and hotel sponsored social events; tonight's community-building activity was a free spaghetti dinner in the lobby/dining area.
I've only ever been down there for the complimentary breakfasts, which have always been civil and laid-back in nature. No one is hovering possessively over the coffee urns or elbowing someone out of the way to get a spoonful of scrambled egg. So I was wholly unprepared for the near melee that broke out tonight over some overdone spaghetti noodles and watery pasta sauce.
The only reason Husband, Ethan and I even bothered with the hotel orchestrated dining experience is because Ethan can no longer be trusted not to act out in restaurants in such a way as to cause managers to ask us kindly to never, ever return. Why they give kids crayons to play with at restaurants is beyond me. All they do is eat them. And when they're riding high on that wax-induced buzz, the crayons become projectiles, missiles aimed at a bowl of chili the next table over. We are so popular.
We figured since we're already paying this place for a week (at the least) of living large in our suite, they could just tolerate his royal obnoxiousness and spare us the horror of having to take him out in public. Mind you, this is after an hour of "We don't hit mommy!" and subsequent time outs, all which elicited hysterical tears and profuse apologies, followed by more hitting mommy.
Because he is so wonderful, Husband took over the care of the beast as soon as he came home and down to the lobby we went. Had I known what mayhem was about to occur, I'd have thought twice about subjecting my child to such a scene; I mean, we do change the station whenever anything remotely violent or overly "action-y" is on the TV, why would I allow it to happen right in front of us?
The problem? The vats of limp, water-logged spaghetti noodles and equally runny tomato sauce were all but empty. Only four or five end pieces of garlic bread were left and one measly oatmeal raisin cookie languished on the dessert plate. While a good number of people sat at their tables with heaps of spaghetti and actual meatballs, not to mention a veritable pile of cookies awaiting their fate at the hands of these grubby hoarders, the rest of the diners waited impatiently for the vats to be refilled. They were not pleased.
Please bear in mind that the salad bowls--chuck a' block full. So too, the chicken noodle soup. But no. People, tapping fingers on empty bone china plates, patting their feet anxiously against the floor and fidgeting from one foot to the next, were waiting for spaghetti and meatballs! The little calendars by all of our doors said "spaghetti and meatballs" damn it, not "browning iceburg salad and chicken noodle soup"!!
Husband and I had procured a bit of the remaining spaghetti for Ethan and managed to scrape up a bit of what was left for ourselves. We watched the crowd of hungry Residence Inn residence grow increasingly restless. Every time the kitchen door hinges squeaked open, people at their tables lurched forward in a walk-run to be sure they didn't miss that first plate of steamy overdone goodness as it was brought to the sterno trays. Those who had hoarded piles of food during the last wave watched in smug gluttonous confidence as the hungry masses faded away in hungry anticipation. People were sighing heavily and blowing hair off of their forehead. Arms were crossed angrily. It was insane.
There was one guy working the whole show. I won't lie; there were moments I feared for his safety. You know there was one woman back there stirring spaghetti in a massive pot of boiling water, furiously popping open jars of generic spaghetti sauce and ripping open bags of Costco brand frozen meatballs as fast as she could. And then this poor bum had to go out, work his way through the crowd to get the empty tray so he could return it for a full one--all without being pummelled by the increasingly crazed crowd.
At one point, I swear I heard him say, "Can I please get through?! Please," as he came through with a new batch of spaghetti. I kid you not that they swarmed him from the moment the kitchen door squeaked. And once he extracted himself from the situation, they descended on the tray like flies on...well, you know what flies love. Gradually they formed a line, but only in the most "fine, whatever. so you were here first. pppfffft," grudging way, you'd have thought it was free diamond day at Tiffany's.
I understood where the hoarding came from after that. Watching these previously deprived diners select their meatballs lovingly from the vat of sauce, I marveled at how they walked away from the serving area to their tables with 5, 6 or 7 meatballs heaped on their plates. Not to mention the piles of cookies chosen from the replenished dessert plate. Husband went back up to the trays after the initial rush of diners subsided to find only the sparest of choices left.
Anyone who showed up after three or four minutes of that rush were left to wonder where the hell the food went, why everyone seated had mountains of food on their plate and thus, the whole thing started over again.
I think we'll go to California Pizza Kitchen tomorrow.