A year ago, I was in a European city with Karen for a few days, and it was dinnertime. We were walking through the streets, peering in windows and inspecting menus to find something that appealed.
Sometimes, this kind of thing just slots into place. Interesting eateries leap out at you, or you are in the company of a friend who has a plan of action, or you have an inexplicable confidence that it’s all going to work out okay.
Sadly, the situation in which we found ourselves did not conform to this specification. We were struggling, desperate, hopeless, forlorn. Neither of us had the gusto to take charge of this operation, and there was a lot of
Do you like this one? and
I don’t know, do YOU like this one? going on. As you are probably aware, this situation should be avoided at all costs.
We inadvertantly meandered into a nice-looking, albeit empty, restaurant. Empty of customers, empty of staff. It was the most promising menu that we’d seen, which seemed like adequate justification at the time.
Once inside, we started to explore. I wandered towards a sinister-looking downstairs area, and Karen kinda pottered round in circles, hoping for things to take a turn for the better. Eventually we were hailed by the woman in charge, who appeared from nowhere.
Here’s where it gets interesting, because rather than seating us in one of the tables that we’d seen through the window, she led us through into a back room, and tucked us out of sight. This struck me as odd – surely you fill up from the front, so that the place doesn’t look so empty.
Mounting evidence, however, suggested that she didn’t really want us around anyway. She failed to bring us a pair of menus for what felt like years, and when we stood up and left, she didn’t fall over herself to make us stay. I can only deduce that her kitchen staff had the day off, and she was hoping to make it through the evening without anyone ordering any food.
A few streets away, we happened across a familiar-looking establishment. It was the very place where we had enjoyed a few drinks the previous night. However, due to approaching it from a different direction, and entering through a different door, Karen didn’t recognise it initially. The identical menus were easily explained, by her, as being due to the two restaurants being owned by the same chain. Far-fetched, yes, but not impossible.
I think that it wasn’t until we left at the end of our meal, and started walking back to the hotel along the same route that we had taken the previous evening, that it all finally clicked into place for her.
It was the same place!
Yes, I know.
But… no… I don’t think you realise – it was the same place!
Yes. As I mentioned, an hour ago.
I thought you were joking…