Thursday, September 22, 2016

Done In by Dining Out

For many Americans dining out is a pretty big deal.  On paper at least, it holds the promise of something different, a break from the routine. There are the attractions of not having to clean up, wash the dishes, or at least get them into a dishwasher, put away those items that call for putting away.  For sure there are couples among us who welcome a “date” highlighting dinner.  Families find that the kids can frequently put aside their bickering long enough to have the attention given to them by ever-patient servers.  Plus, ordering whatever they want!

Yes, there were positive, bright sides to dining out in the old days. Today, not so much. Time marches on for sure when servers greet diners as if we are all part of one big frat house. The first time one asked “Do you guys want anything to drink?” I felt it insulting to my attractive wife and replied “Does this lady look like a guy to you?” Only that cool Guinness calmed me down.  No sense fighting the inevitable in our constantly dumbed down world.  Roll on.  There are enough hurdles challenging your digestion already. “Tipping” being one.  My wife and I don't go out for dinner all that much, but when we do I don't feel a need for a course in mathematics. Suggesting percentages for gratuities is an invitation to increased blood pressure. Still I don't want to go totally negative by being done in by dining out. There are certainly more reasons to go out once in a while than there are staying home 100% of the time.

Some dining out experiences are burned in my memory.  One such involves the officers club at the old Philadelphia Naval Base where I dined frequently with my good pal, the late Rear Admiral Jack Sweeney. Our friendship was forged in teenage years when he was caddying at the golf club in Somers Point, New Jersey, and I was setting up chairs and umbrellas on the beaches of nearby Ocean City. I respected Jack's rank but our long ago years were by far the strongest tie that bound us.

Most of the servers at the officers club were Irish women. And Sweeney, Irish to the core, loved the club's mashed potatoes that seemed to be part of every menu.  The Irish waitresses hovered around Sweeney like so many mother hens constantly asking him, “Admiral, would you like some more potatoes?” Sweeney never refused.

When my wife and I dine out and mashed potatoes are on the menu, I order them in memory of Admiral Sweeney.

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