Monday, September 13, 2004

Long delay in posting, even given my recent once a week track record. Well, the beginning of the semester is tiring, and I don't use the computer that much on the weekends. I expected to write today that I had my last swim of the season yesterday, but Bob couldn't bear to put the winter chemicals in and the cover on when we are having the nicest stretch of weather we've had all summer. Incredible to think that this is at the same time that Florida is getting clobbered.

Mimmie was born 100 years ago today! I am going to work on the book proposal at the end of this week because I am only on campus one day. We have a short break starting on Wednesday.

Last week, we were eating in Smokey Bones in Colonie, it is one of the Darden chain (which includes Red Lobster, Olive Garden (yuck, ugh, I could puke), and another restaurant or two that are mostly, or maybe only in the south - I think one is called Bahama Breeze, something like that? Not sure). I don't like big chains like that with a few exceptions, and Smokey Bones is one. The rustic almost seems real. Sort of Disney lite. Anyway, when we were almost ready to leave, but had not yet paid, the fire alarms went off. After a very short time, Bob and I got up and went outside, but everyone else did not react. Very few were even looking around, although the sirens were more annoying than a car alarm, if that is possible. They just continued to eat their dinner, talk, and drink at the bar. When we got outside, one other person had exited too. Quite a while went by - it is hard to estimate how long or short - but it seemed too long, especially since the alarms kept ringing - and finally, the crowd inside, including the staff, came out.

Emergency vehicles arrived, fire trucks, police, paramedics, etc. The firefighters went in, came out after a while and got different equipment, including fans, and went back inside. While they were inside, it started to rain. The staff and customers were huddled under the building overhang. Some patrons went to their cars and left. Some new customers arrived and wondered aloud what was going on. The only thing we had to do was pay our check (and retrieve some leftovers). All the while the multiple TVs inside (always the most annoying thing about Smokey Bones and other such places of that ilk) broadcast images to no one. It was surreal.

Finally the firefighters left, and we were allowed back inside. The server said it was a false alarm, but the kitchen was shut down. (I guess they needed the fans to clear out the siren noise). She asked if we were upset, and wanted to speak with the manager. We told her we weren't upset by anything except that no one except us and one other person exited promptly. We asked if anyone had skipped out on the check, and she said one table had. (It was four guys who had been seated across from us.) I think there may have been more, judging by the number of people who drove away while we were outside in the rain, but I could be wrong. Bob asked if talking to the manager would mean we would get a discount, and she said no. So, he whipped out our gift certificate ($5 off came with a shareholder report), paid our check, we took our take out, and that was that. I'm thinking that as a shareholder (even if a miniscule one) I should write to the company about the experience. I think that for goodwill purposes, some sort of discount should have been given automatically to customers, and it shouldn't take the patrons having to whine to or yell at the manager.

A contrasting experience, on Saturday we went to the Country Inn, a small restaurant 1.3 miles from our house in S'ville. For some reason, we both ordered steak - I rarely eat beef, and can't remember the last time I ordered it in a restaurant. (It is always a mistake to eat steak when you are not used to it, but that is not really related to this story.) When they came out, Bob's was cooked perfectly, but mine was not done enough. The server took it back and had it cooked more, and when it came out a short time later, it was perfect. They also gave me another serving of al dente spinach, since the steak was served on a bed of it, which I loved.

After we were done eating, the server asked if we wanted dessert. We said no, but she said it was on the house because of the steak. I was so surprised, said that really isn't necessary, but she insisted. (I didn't feel it was necessary because what I feel is medium-well may be what someone else feels is well done.) Anyway, we both had dessert, and when the check came, not only was mine complimentary, Bob's was too!

Just one reason in 100 for why I prefer small businesses over chains.

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