Heaven knows I have embarrassed myself in countless ways, countless times. One of my more spectacular incidents was in a crowded Manhattan restaurant. Where shall I begin…oh, at the coat check. When my colleague and I walked into the restaurant the hostess immediately asked to check our coats. I politely declined; I can’t tell you why but I’m not a big fan of the restaurant coat check. The hostess, polite but firm, told me they preferred all of their guests to check their coats; the tables were close together and already set, so it didn’t take much to knock your coat on a table and knock everything off of it.
I smiled sweetly and said that she apparently thought I’d never eaten anywhere more upscale than a Bob’s Big Boy and didn’t know how to act in a fine establishment. I was haughty; I was outraged; I was indignant. After glaring at me for an uncomfortable period of time, she finally just led us to our seats. I held my coat close and made it to the table without so much as brushing anything else.
We enjoyed a lovely and uneventful dinner, and when we got up to leave I’d sort of forgotten the whole coat check thing. I stepped out of the booth and swung my coat around behind me to put it back on. Yes, you know where this is headed…nothing short of complete humiliation. My coat and I managed to take out plates, glassware, and silverware in a wide swath across a round table set for 6 people.
It was everything you can imagine and worse; the destruction building up to a final crescendo of plates and glasses breaking on the floor. Even jaded New Yorkers turned around to stare at me in silence. But it wasn’t the other patrons that frightened me; it was knowing that I now had no choice but to walk directly to the hostess stand in order to get to the door. There was kind of a swat team that swept in around us to clean up the mess, and a lot of stage whispering, glaring and tsk-tsking behind the hostess stand.
Walking to the front of the restaurant seemed endless. I was just a bull trying to tip toe through a china shop. I went for a weak smile at the end, just to try to play it off, but my heart wasn’t in it. I endured the sneering, the snide comments, the snickering.
Not a week after The Incident I was speaking with a partner about holiday party venues and he said he had family friends who owned a beautiful restaurant. I was enthusiastic until he told me the name of the place. I turned beet red and started back pedaling on choice of venue. He was not swayed, and told me to call and see if they even had the date available. I suddenly found religion and prayed my heart out as I dialed. My prayers were answered when they told me they were booked solid in December.
Nowadays, just to be careful, I only eat in establishments that use plastic tableware.