06 May 2009

Cinqo de Mayo 2009

May 5th is commonly referred to as “Cinqo de Mayo” (“CdM”) and is a Mexican celebration to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. Always ready to party (and drink margaritas), Americans have fully embraced this tradition and on this date, people everywhere gather at Mexican restaurants for margaritas, chips and salsa (or queso), mariachi bands, colorful leis and good fellowship. But what if you choose to celebrate alone? Have you ever tried it? Last night was my first CdM celebration alone – and let me tell you, it was an eye-opener. First, for the record, I have NO problem going out by myself. Shoot, I have traveled to foreign countries by myself, so sitting in a restaurant to enjoy a good meal is no big deal – to me. Apparently, it is to everyone else.

So, initially, the plan was NOT for me to go by myself. My mom celebrated her birthday on May 4, so as a continuation of the celebration, I’d planned to take her out for CdM, but she wasn’t feeling well and opted to stay home. I had a choice: stay home with her and miss out on a frozen lime margarita with rock salt on the rim – or go out and enjoy a toast to Mexican freedom. Well, it is my American duty to help stimulate the economy in any way that I can, so off I traipsed to the Mexican restaurant of choice.

When I got there, I settled in for a wait. It wasn’t even 7:00p and already the line was forming out the door. I questioned the couple in front of me as to the expected wait and they said that the hostess had been so busy, she hadn’t even approached them yet, but that they were committed to wait at least 30 minutes before they would pull up stakes, call it a night and go home. I figured “that seems reasonable – after all, it is CdM.” So I settled in for the wait. The first 10 minutes passed in about 30 mins, the next 10 seemed like an hour…but you know me, I talked to the people around me, made some new friends and the line moved…slowly. It wasn’t until I got closer to the hostess booth that I realized that there might be a problem that I was there by myself.

“How many people in your party?” the hostess asked the couple in front of me. “Two.” “Would you like me to bring you a drink as you wait?” “Sure, we’ll have two margaritas – one frozen, one on the rocks.” “Fine.” The hostess then turns her attention towards me. “How many people in your party?” “One.” “One? No one is joining you later?” “Uh no, just one.” “Well, would you like to have a seat at our bar and eat your dinner there?” “No, I prefer to wait for a booth or table please.” “You could be seated quicker if you sit at the bar.” “Hmm. I understand that, but I’d prefer a booth or table please. It can be a smaller two top table and you can seat the larger parties behind me, I don’t mind waiting, but I do not want to sit at the bar.” This led to a conference with the other hostess with whispers and glances over the shoulder ensuing. Now the other hostess (who was pregnant) waddles over to me. “Party of one?” “Yes.” “Are you sure you don’t want to sit at the bar?” “yeah, I’m pretty sure I don’t.” “Oh, ok, follow me.” (Back up: did you notice that I was not offered a drink while I waited? Yeah, I corrected that sometime during the ‘let’s get this poor lonely all by herself woman to the bar’ conversation) (Second back up: the couple in front of me (the Walkers – nice people) noticing the tone of the conversation with the hostesses offered me the option of joining them for dinner. Maybe it would have been ‘easier’ but I really wanted to eat my dinner in peace, reading my latest sleazy romance – and not doing all the small talk that you have to do when you meet people for the first time.)

Ok, so back to me and the hostesses (who, let me tell you, were very nice considering the stress of the evening). I follow them to a table designed for four people. The waiter immediately comes over and says, “How many people will be joining you?” “No one, it’s just me.” “Well, I could join you.” (with a big smile on his very very young face) “Yes, sweetie, you could, but you might lose your job if you did.” (Ok I was thinking that, didn’t say it). He leaves so I can peruse the menu and here comes the hostess. “Ma’am, we have a smaller table that has opened up, do you mind if we move you?” (Well, yeah, kind of, but I understand trying to maximize the space). So I gather up my purse, and my drink and follow the hostess around to a smaller table…only, it’s not really available yet. Apparently, another brave soul decided to eat by herself and had gone to the restroom after her meal. There were still chips and salsa on the table, as well as her take-out container and well, you get the picture. Patrons seated at a nearby table told the hostess that the woman was just in the bathroom. So, the hostess turns around and tries to take me back to my original table, but hostess #2 has already seated a party of four there, so the table is no longer available – so now I'm back at the front of the restaurant at the hostess table and you know what’s coming, don’t you? “Ma’am, are you sure you don’t want to sit at the bar?”

Gritting my teeth, I grimaced and assured the hostess (once again) that I was fine waiting for the smaller table to become available. It didn’t take long and soon I was back at my table for two, but only housing one. And then the fun with the waitress began. Long story short: It took two requests to get chips and salsa on the table, three or four requests to get a glass of water (which came as I was asking for my check to leave), I got my plate of food before I got silverware (and then was asked if I wanted real silverware or would plastic suffice) and she never came to check on me as I ate until it was time to get my check. Now, I could chalk it up to “well, they were busy” if I didn’t see her catering to the larger parties around me in her section. Did she somehow think that because I was by myself I wouldn’t leave her a tip worth caring about – or, because I was by myself, I was “less than” in some way? I don’t know what her issue was, but I enjoyed my meal and my margarita in spite of her treatment of me – and being gracious in spite of, I didn’t even reflect it in my tip.

This will not stop me from going out to restaurants by myself – but maybe next year, for Cinqo de Mayo, I’ll just enjoy my frozen lime margarita with rock salt on the rim at home.

Be blessed.

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