Sunday found us out in the city for the first time in weeks. We were running some errands on the Upper West Side, and sat in Central Park for a while to enjoy the sun and let Cheeky rub dirt into her hands and clothes. In a rare moment of inspiration and spontaneity, we decided to get an early dinner while we were up there, reasoning that (a) Cheeky would sleep in her stroller while we ate, and (b) it's probably better than defrosting turkey meatballs for dinner. Besides, we're old pros at this...we should be able to get a good meal and still be home in time for The West Wing.
We made our way to a restaurant called Citrus that we used to go to a lot before we moved out of the city. Good food--a Latin/Asian fusion--and killer margaritas. Plus they had outdoor seating, was close to the subway, and since it was early it probably wasn't crowded. See how smart we are?
What we failed to realize is that past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and this place aspires enough to be hip (in a late 90s sort of way) that "being accommodating" doesn't apply well to parents.
The two hostesses, who we'll refer to as Paris and Nicole, were clearly not used to anyone pushing a stroller into the restaurant, and their eyes started twitching trying to figure out how to seat us in a nearly empty restaurant. "Can we use table 7 and move the party of 5 to 24, carry the 2, and the reservation of 6 can go to 18 cosine A-B?" I helpfully pointed out how you could remove a chair from an empty table in the back to make room for the stroller, but Paris looked at it like it was a Buick Roadmaster and dismissed that as preposterous. Thankfully they had managed to accommodate a handicapped person who was just leaving (by removing a chair from an empty table....hmmmm), so we managed to convince them they wouldn't be breaking any fire codes if we took that table.
Unfortunately, that table was pretty close to the bar, which, like all bars, tries to accommodate the conversational needs of its patrons by playing spin-class music at top volume. Cheeky usually sleeps for at least an hour, but within a couple minutes the thumping shook her awake and, frustrated, she decided to take it out on us. Meanwhile people were starting to file into the restaurant and scoot their chairs back far enough so that every waiter knocked their elbows into our skulls as they walked by. Fun!
So now we're trying to distract an incredibly tired infant in the middle of an increasingly unpleasant restaurant. Our food arrives, and as usual I've opted for the least practical thing under the circumstances--spare ribs. Nothing one-handed about that. We score a high-chair in hopes that Cheeky will eat and stop yelling at us for parking her stroller in an aerobics studio. Her goal in life is to clear all surfaces of objects which rest upon them, so she immediately begins going for knives, forks, and beverages which, when taken away, send her into hysterics. The only thing that calmed her down is a small piece of spare rib that she could suck on.
(Camera cuts to Oodgie, looking at me like I'm freakin' insane as I hand this to our daughter.)
She's fine for maybe four minutes when we realize that the previously identified piece of meat is neither in her hand nor on the floor.
(Camera cuts to Cheeky with mouth open, as if to cough, but no noise is coming out. Her face is the color of a grape Tootsie Pop)
Nothing makes you disregard the flailing arms of your child more than the thought that something is lodged in her trachea, and my finger is in her mouth so fast it you can hear a sonic "pop." I get the meat out quickly, but Cheeky has now lost her mind, either due to lack of oxygen or the finger that nearly removed her tonsils
(Camera cuts to stunned restaurant patrons staring angrily at the bad father cradling the infant)
By this time all we want to do is get the hell out of there, and Paris and Nicole seem to share the sentiment. We spill out onto the street, depressed and frustrated, and trudge our way towards the subway (unaware that, due to service changes, the subway ride would turn into a death march of it's own).
This must be why people end up at Applebee's and Bennigan's. Looks like we'll be ordering in for a while...