I’m pretty sure anyone who knows me knows I am a creature of habit. I prefer things to have structure, organization and consistency. I’m not big on surprises or someone who adapts well to change. There are the occasional exceptions, such as when we meet new people but even then, it’s always hard to figure out how to integrate new friendships into my habit-driven ways.
So, why did I bring up this little character flaw? I guess I’ve been a bit bothered by too much change over the past few weeks and months and it may have come to a head this past weekend. Here’s the run down just on a few related to where we dine noting I’ve omitted some specifics so that I “do no harm” to the folks who run these businesses. Oh sure, close friends will be able to figure out which places I’m referring to — it’s not hard when you remember that I just told you I’m a creature of habit that only frequents a few places — but the wide world of the internet won’t.
Change #1: We’ve been going to a great place for lunch for over a year and it was one of those places we first developed a fondness for because the food tasted so good and was of consistent quality. But, more than that, the folks who ran the business were always there and made us feel warm and welcome when we walked in the door and that personal connection to customers seemed to be echo’d by the rest of the crew. However, for a variety of reasons the folks who run the business have been absent and so has that warm, welcomed feeling and sense of “appreciation for our business / loyalty” that made the place “special”. At the same time, the food has also lost its spark and consistency. The signature item on the menu had a very unique flavor and quality that set it apart from all others and that’s also gone. I’m not sure if they changed the recipe, suppliers or what but without that flavor — never mind spotty quality — not even the food is a draw for me. So, I think our favorite lunch stop has run its course and that’s sad. I didn’t meet Miss Debbie for lunch every other week until we discovered this place, so I’m not sure how to replace the experience, since it has become such an important part of our routine.
Change #2: This happened over the past year and I’m not sure what really happened. One of our other regular restaurants had also become a place where we always felt appreciated and welcomed by friendly faces whenever we walked-in for our weekly visit, sometimes twice a week visit. We knew most of the folks who worked there and the food was always plentiful and delicious. Then, almost over night, after 10 years the normal pace of change — there were always minor adjustments to the staff and the menu — was such that everything seemed to change over the course of a week. It was mid-summer when the business was a bit slower and many of the gals who worked there while going to college were out on summer break. Suddenly we didn’t recognize anyone, nor did they recognize us. Imagine if you will “Norm” walking into Cheers and being unnoticed: that was us. The servers were all new and always seemed to be “in training”. Food would sit on the warming shelf for 5 – 10 minutes before anyone took notice and brought it to us, salads wouldn’t come out ahead of the entrees even when we made a point to ask. The quality of the food and flavors seemed to become less interesting and bland and, well, it just wasn’t that “regular” experience we always enjoyed. So, sadly, we moved-on and found a new place. Sure, we go back every now and then to see if things have changed and there are a few folks there who still recognize us and tell us that they miss seeing us, which gives us hope. But, more than 1/2 of the time the delivery of the food or quality disappoints and kills the “buzz” of that familiar dining experience we were hoping to have.
Change #3: Our “new place” appears to have become a victim of its own success. The warm, welcome feeling that we would get as regulars spread to other patrons and suddenly we’ve found that when we arrive the bar stools are all taken and we have no place to sit and visit with the bartenders who made us feel welcomed and took such good care of us. The fallback is the outside bar which has also become crowded, leaving us to find a table and, well, that just doesn’t work well… ever! Instead of having our always attentive bartender refreshing our drinks as soon as they’re empty we’re having to wait for someone to “check on us”. When we order food and have special requests the bartenders always got it right or “fixed it” when it came out of the kitchen wrong before it got to us. Now, what hits the table has to go back and that kills the flow of the meal, as well as the overall dining experience. On top of all that, it just seems like the owners have become distracted and are letting the normal, heavy wear and tear that a restaurant / bar built on a tight budget gets as “best value” bar stools break but aren’t repaired or replaced, and the bathrooms begin to go to hell. Hey, I don’t mind going to a biker joint where I expect things to look like hell: I don’t usually eat at those places, so I don’t care about cleanliness as much: I drink beer from a bottle! But, for a restaurant where food is cooked to order and drinks come in glasses that need to be washed, a lack of attention and care to the capital equipment usually isn’t isolated: how well paid and qualified is that kitchen staff? How often are they changing out the grease and how hot is the water being used to clean the glassware and dishes? Hey, we still love the folks who work there and enjoy seeing them, the food usually tastes pretty good but…. If we can’t get a seat at the bar and the place keeps falling apart you can bet your boots we’ll be moving on.
Even getting out for a night of dancing has become a bit of a strain. We really can’t do smokey bars anymore as my upper respiratory system has finally said “enough is enough”. If I do a smokey bar on a Friday night, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be able to breathe without hacking all-day Saturday, sometimes into Sunday. Bands seem to be hit or miss, where a great band means a packed house and no way to get a good seat or room on the dance floor. Other bands that we really enjoyed have broken up or just disappeared, where others have had to make changes that upset the chemistry. Different clubs aren’t always a good thing either, where the folks working there can be hit or miss. It’s a little thing, but the other night we sent a “round to the band” via our waitress and instead of delivering it herself she had one of the patrons do it for her; really? Guess who the band thanked for the round? Duh… I would have assumed they bought the round too, which is why you — the waitress we paid to deliver a round for the band — were supposed to deliver the round. It’s a little thing, but it’s annoying as hell.
So, as you can imagine, being a bit on the OCD side I’m very out of sorts at the moment. I don’t like change and now I feel like we need to go and find new “favorite places” or, perhaps the way forward will be staying in or going way out, as in taking weekend trips. Of course, with a house and yard to maintain, sneaking away for a weekend isn’t always easy either: someone’s got to work on the house and yard, right?
What to do? Not sure. But it’s definitely on my mind and we need to do something.