Coastal Georgia. It was dark and rainy when we pulled into the tourist-trap restaurant parking lot with 4,236 other cars. We were running on fumes, we were low on calories. We’d been on a highway for six hours, our stomachs were empty.
All evening we’d been hunting a place to eat, but everywhere was slammed with tourists. Each local restaurant had one-, two-, or three-hour wait times. This particular seafood joint only had a 25-minute wait.
I gave the hostess my name. The perky high-school-age girl added us to the list and told us we would have to wait outside. But there was a big problem with this.
“It’s raining,” I said.
Although the word “raining” would be putting it mildly. It was Hurricane Hugo out there. Furthermore, this restaurant had no covered porch or outdoor shelter. Only a dirt parking lot.
“Why can’t we wait inside?” I asked.
She shook her head. “We don’t allow people to wait inside, sir. Ain’t enough room for the servers. If you wanna give me your cell phone number, I’ll call you when your table’s ready.”
I pointed to the empty bar at the rear of the restaurant. “Can’t we just sit at the bar and wait?”
A second head shake. “Bar’s closed. You’re not allowed to sit there.”
“You won’t even know we’re there.”
I turned to look at the Old Testament rainshower outside the window. A sudden clap of thunder exploded, shaking the windows and dimming the lights.
“You’re actually going to turn us out into the driving rain?”
The hostess reached behind her lectern and handed me a plastic-covered menu. “Maybe you can use this as an umbrella?”
She was all heart.
So my wife and I raced back to our car, through the muddy parking lot, clomping through hip-deep puddles. After waiting 25 minutes in our front seat I had received no phone calls.
I charged inside to see what the hold-up was. I stood dripping in the entryway. “Nobody called me,” I informed the hostess.
She shrugged and said, “Sorry, sir, we had a shift change. We musta lost your number.”
“Lost my number? It’s been almost thirty minutes, and our name’s on your list. Is our table ready?”
She made a frowny face. “Sorry, we called your name earlier, but we couldn’t find you so we gave your table to another party.”
“Sir, please lower your voice.”
I drew in a calming breath and silently recited the Serenity Prayer that my uncle taught me.
I gestured to the empty bar again. “Ma’am, I am tired, I’m hungry, and I am drenched all the way down to my Fruit-of-the-Looms, can we sit at the bar?”
I could almost feel it coming. “No sir, not allowed. But if you wanna give me your cell phone number I’ll call you in an hour…”
Back to our car. We sat in our idling vehicle while thunderstorms violated the Georgia coastline. I was ready to cut my losses and leave, but my wife was hanging in there. Then finally, I received my phone call. The tinny voice said, “Your table’s ready, sir.”
Praise the Lord and pass the cocktail sauce.
My wife and I sprinted through the howling torrent once more, squishing in our footwear, hair matted to our faces. My wife’s mascara was running down her cheeks so that she looked like Tammy Faye Baker after a very bad night.
The hostess cheerfully led us through a crowded restaurant to our table, which was sandwiched beside an enormous and loud family reunion that was happening. I counted 42 adults and seven newborns at the long reunion table. And as if on cue, all infants began screaming.
“Is there another table available?” I asked the hostess over the screams. And at the risk of being redundant, I added, “Maybe we could sit at the bar. It’s quieter over there.”
She shook her head.
So we took our seats beside the screaming babies. And as it turned out, the newborns were just getting warmed up. In a few moments, their animated tantrums were soon followed by an awesomely foul aroma that filled the dining hall.
“Uh-oh,” remarked a young mother seated near me, peeking into her infant’s diaper. “Did Jon Jon make a stinky?”
Give me strength.
Come to find out, yes, Jon Jon did indeed make a stinky. In fact, Jon Jon had made perhaps one of the most soul shaking stinkies I have ever laid eyes on. I know this because in the center of the dining room, the mother transformed two chairs into an impromptu changing station and proceeded to unleash the nightmare.
After our meal my wife and I were exhausted. We were both ready to return to our quiet hotel and sleep until the next millennium.
Before leaving, I walked to the cashier station to pay the damage. The cashier happened to be the manager, he was maybe midfifties. He asked if everything had been okay this evening.
So I leveled with him. I told him this was not one of my top-five dining experiences, then I told him about Jon Jon’s recent gift to humanity.
The man apologized sincerely and said, “Gosh, sir, I wish you’d said something earlier. We could’ve always sat you at the bar.”
oldlibrariansshelf - June 14, 2021 7:36 am
There are rules and there are guidelines . . . . There is also compassion of which there was obviously insufficient supply for you. Bless your heart.
James Taylor - June 14, 2021 7:51 am
What time is your arraignment? And when will your court date be?
Susan H Poole - June 14, 2021 8:26 am
Susan Corbin - June 14, 2021 9:52 am
Always ask to speak to the Manager.
Lucretia Jones - June 14, 2021 11:26 am
My thoughts exactly.
Jane - June 14, 2021 10:06 am
Do you need bail money???!
joan moore - June 14, 2021 10:58 am
I’m surprised you didn’t ask for curbside pickup…
Lucretia Jones - June 14, 2021 11:25 am
Too familiar an occurrence. Hard to find a sacred place when you travel or even locally. Your familiar experience serves to remind me to learn from past experiences, apply, then bloom where I am planted. Thank you for the barometer reading.
Debbie g - June 14, 2021 11:44 am
Oh my. I hope you laughed Y’all have so many good times. This was minor love y’all 😂😂
Jan - June 14, 2021 12:09 pm
Wow! Sorry you guys had such a rough night. Traveling can be difficult especially now that everyone is ready to hit the road! Hope your next experience is much better.
Bernadette Wyckoff - June 14, 2021 12:10 pm
Can’t help but love this and you. Next time don’t ask…just go have a drink at the bar…may serve you weak sweet tea or free rainwater. And life goes on….
Leesa - June 14, 2021 12:24 pm
Oh dear. There should be a separate seating area for singles or couples who would prefer a quieter (less aromatic) dining experience. I’m with Jane and James above; if you need bail money or a witness in court… Keep your chin up, Sean. This too shall pass. And, you got a great column from your experience.
Steve Winfield (Lifer) - June 14, 2021 12:44 pm
Back in the 90’s when Emiril Lagasse was the king of all food TV channels. His best restaurant in NOLA required about a one month advance reservation. My girlfriend & I planned a weekend there around this dinner. We flew from B’ham.
We arrived at the restaurant early & waited 45 minutes for our table.
The $250 meal was exquisite except for one thing. At the table next to us a woman held an infant on her shoulder. The baby SCREAMED the whole hour we were there.
Suellen - June 14, 2021 12:47 pm
“Tammy Faye Baker after a very bad night”. Haha. I’ve been there before. Luckily Jon Jon was not part of my dining experience.
Pam Moore - June 18, 2021 3:04 am
😆 that line got me too. Made me laugh church out loud!
Colin Johnson - June 14, 2021 12:54 pm
Maybe a “to go” order may have been appropriate
Tammy S. - June 14, 2021 1:29 pm
No he didn’t!! 🤭 oh! my! word!!!
Did you bite the tip of your tongue off?
Celia - June 14, 2021 1:50 pm
I’m truthfully appalled that a mother would choose to change a diaper, much less a stinky diaper, at the table where others are eating. Have manners just flown out the door or never been learned by anyone who would do this? I’m just of the old school that there are definitely things that others do not need to see or be exposed to. I might have even played my “ handicap sticker card” which I never do except when parking if I had had such problems as yours with the rain, and cell phone calls.
Leigh Amiot - June 14, 2021 2:19 pm
And please, people, stop depositing dirty diapers in parking lots. Put an empty bread wrapper in a diaper bag, place the diaper in it until you get to a trash can. Inside a restaurant, though, stuff of nightmares! I used to gag when I changed my own babies’ diapers, probably would have lost it all in that circumstance. 😂
STEVE MOORE WATKINS - June 14, 2021 2:53 pm
Robert Wagner - June 14, 2021 3:11 pm
Probably can’t sit in the empty bar because of course the bar is closed because of COVID restrictions even if you’ve been vaccinated and wearing a mask
Kris Herron - June 14, 2021 3:27 pm
The “unleashing of the nightmare” in this story made this overall wearing coach in Clay County laugh out loud!
MyPlace - June 14, 2021 3:36 pm
Right then is when the thought “KILL KILL KILL” rages through my brain… Fortunately, for the person causing that thought, I have never carried out that particular action~~!
Connie Pearson - June 14, 2021 3:58 pm
Oh my goodness. You would make an awesome travel/food writer. 🙂 Hmmmmm. Or maybe you already are one. 🙂
Susan Kennedy - June 14, 2021 3:59 pm
I would have gone elsewhere the first time I was told I had to wait outside!
Joey - June 14, 2021 5:20 pm
Susan Kennedy, my thoughts exactly! When a business (be it restaurant, landscaper, dry cleaner, or anything else) acts as if you are doing them a favor by being their paying customer, it’s time to look for another establishment. I tend to take this sort of thing personally… especially when I’m hungry!
Harriet - June 14, 2021 4:55 pm
Oh my gosh! I remember Hugo – September 16,1989 is our wedding day and we want to Pawleys Island for our honeymoon. The storm was horrible, they made everyone in the hotel leave. We were glad to go.
Sorry your hostess was clueless!
Bob E - June 14, 2021 5:07 pm
Now that I’ve experienced your nightmare vicariously I’m making a mental note: when at first you don’t get an expected and/or hoped-for reply go right to the top – manager that is.
I sympathize with you and your wife – next time will be (has to be) better – I think.
Second mental note: pack a lunch.
Bill - June 14, 2021 5:15 pm
Probably the best ending to a story. Thanks for sharing.
Linda Moon - June 14, 2021 7:21 pm
Traps designed to catch tourists are very unpleasant and annoying. Serenity is needed when we’re caught in one…but that peace is hard to come by while waiting and waiting and then waiting some more. Most of my touring days are behind me with good memories and some bad “traps” of many types, too. I prefer the memories of roads less travelled….far, far removed from establishments that are out to get me!
S. - June 14, 2021 7:21 pm
Dr. Phil says to never take “No” from someone who can’t give you a “Yes”.
MAM - June 14, 2021 9:16 pm
I’m with Susan Corbin at the top. ALWAYS ask to speak to the manager. S. just above this has it right, too! What would the hostess have done if you have simply gone and sat down at the bar to wait. Maybe SHE would have called the manager, and everything would have turned out much better. Always go to the top of the pay chain!
Jenny Young - June 14, 2021 9:16 pm
That is not even a little funny……
Mack Hollaway - June 14, 2021 10:35 pm
After reading The Tourist I realize how easy it would be to cuss a blue streak.
John king - June 14, 2021 10:44 pm
I was in Saint Martin a couple of weeks ago, there were 14 people on the airplane I took from Atlanta, you walk right in and be seated at any restaurant and even the Frenchman will be more than happy to see you.
Most of the Caribbean is operating on 10% of the revenues they were receiving from tourist in 2019.
Chasity Davis Ritter - June 15, 2021 12:49 am
I have no words… well I do but if you can’t say something nice……
Robert L Chiles - June 15, 2021 1:36 am
Burger King. Double Whopper. Heavy Mayo. Large fries. Extra Ketchup. Large Dr. Pepper. Motel room. But you would have had to write a different story.
Joe - June 15, 2021 4:20 am
Sh-t happens! Pun intended!
Paul Moore - June 15, 2021 2:18 pm
Thanks Sean. I thought these restaurant scenarios were for me only. It’s why me and the light of my life eat at home or pack a picnic more often these days. Why people take infants to restaurants is crazy. You work hard all week you want a nice meal at a nice quiet place and people turn it into there own selfish Hell house
Karen Snyder - June 16, 2021 9:50 pm
Sometimes it seems as if courtesy passed on and was interred alongside common sense. Bless you for your forbearance.😇