So yesterday was Scott’s birthday. To celebrate, Earl and I thought we’d take him out to dinner as a family. We asked Scott where he’d like to go to dinner, he indicated that he would enjoy going to the Japanese Hibachi grille that we had been to before. We were all looking forward to it as it had been fun in the past. I made reservations for the four of us at 7.
We arrived right on time and the nice woman at the front desk took us to an empty hibachi grill table. These tables seat eight people and normally you share the space with another group. The seats are arranged in a horseshoe pattern around the grill where the hibachi chef/performer will come out and flip food around, ignite various objects on fire and squirt sake from a modified catsup bottle into your mouth from varying degrees of length from your body, the goal being that you need to see how much sake you can take without choking and passing out. It’s kind of like a porn video except with alcohol, so it’s more family friendly.
We were seated less than 30 seconds and still getting our bearings when Jamie got up, asked us to order him a drink and then said he’d be back in time to eat. You see, he had a bit of a headache and the room was loud.
Okay, the room wasn’t loud. The room was an out of control scream fest. People were banging on the things. Sake was being squirted everywhere. Food was being set on fire. Shrimp was flying into hats and sides of beef were being flung about with martial art skill not seen since Kill Bill (either volume).
Now, here’s the rub. The hibachi grill is meant to be fun. That’s why they fling the food around, set things on fire and squirt sake into people’s mouths. It can get loud, during previous visits I think I may have cheered when I saw my dinner get thrown into the fedora of a grumpy patron on the other side of the room. But the people at the other grills weren’t yelling in excitement. They were bellowing. They were screaming like they had just been set free from parole. A woman, apparently upset that she wasn’t given a gong to bang on, stood on her chair and banged on the stainless steel of the hood over the grill. Others were banging plates together. I had never seen people act like this in a hibachi grill before. It was madness. It was mayhem. I’ve seen quieter explosions. Food fights aren’t this lively. People were just randomly screaming at the top of their lungs for no purpose other than to make noise. The person banging on the gong threw it on the floor to make extra noise. A woman howled like she had found the second Halloween of the year. It was nuts.
I politely beckoned to the woman at the front desk and asked to be relocated into the regular dining area of the restaurant, much to the relief of the rest of the family. I grabbed Jamie out of the lobby and told him that we were moving to a quieter area.
On our way to the new table I commented to the hostess that the room seemed very loud tonight. She was non-committal, “people always get excited at birthday celebration.” Apparently in this fine city of ours1, it is tradition to stand up on your chair, grab a spoon and start banging on the cooking appliances. I was non-committal when I replied, “people are nuts.” She giggled, geisha like.
We sat down and got ourselves arranged in front of our menus when the power flickered plenty of times. The screams from the hibachi grill room intensified as they sat in the dark. Apparently more things were set ablaze to light the room. The emergency lighting units made zappy, crackling noises and we continued with the progress of our meal as the lights went on and off in various areas of the restaurant.
The meal was delicious. The server apologized for the handwritten bill when it was time to pay. He added this little zinger to his apology: “Since we have problems with power, you must pay with cash.”
In this world of big banking and technology wonder, we are encouraged to use debit cards and credit cards. While Earl and I carry a fair amount of cash on us, we are not in the habit of carrying enough cash for a dinner for four. We put the contents of our wallet together and came up with $75, $30 short and that’s not including tip.
“We don’t have enough cash and we’re not going to an ATM”, there’s not really an ATM nearby anyways and if we went, all four of us would go. (wink wink).
Now, back in the day before everything from toilets to toasters were computerized, you could call your credit card transactions in on the phone, talk to a woman who was downright miserable for having to be there and did not expect one deviation from her predetermined script and then find out if the credit card was good or not and then you would write the number down on the imprinted slip.
Use a crayon.
Write it on the handwritten bill that you apologized for.
See that wasn’t so hard, now you’ll get a tip.
Since there was uncertainty as to whether the credit transaction would go through or not, I screamed in the delight of possibly getting a free meal and grabbed the closest person that was drinking sake and used them to bang on the hood of the hibachi grill.
Okay, I didn’t do that but I thought about it, as I watched the emergency lights flash on and off and food get set ablaze.
1 Aside from being the location of our beautiful home and my wonderful family, I would rather live elsewhere.
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