It’s the little things
We have visitors over the weekend, and they suggested we go out for dinner Friday night. Friday night even in the back woods of Hampshire in October is likely to fill up anywhere anyone would want to eat at, so having ascertained how many of us there were likely to be I attempted to ring up to make a booking. I was hampered in this effort by the fact that the last time we went to our previous favourite local gastropub they were rather a cow about Luke in his wheelchair. I’d made that booking ahead too, and said that one of us was in a wheelchair, and they’d said that was fine. On the night however I had the distinct feeling that we were being viewed as causing trouble. Excuse me? Their preparations consisted of putting a ‘reserved’ tag on a ground-floor table—they hadn’t even removed the superfluous chair. Nor were they particularly gracious about doing it after we arrived. And . . . it’s the sort of pub where the food’s all on a chalkboard and you have to get up from your table and go read it. The chalkboard is up a half flight of stairs. Nobody offered to read it for us. Recollect that I’d made the booking in advance, ALERTING them to the fact of a wheelchair. And nobody could be frelling bothered to write out the menu on a piece of paper? Well I don’t think we can be frelling bothered to go back there.
Peter and I don’t eat out much so we’re out of the loop. Rumour has it that both the Six Legged Pony and the Rugby Scrum have acquired new management and more to the point new cooks, but the improvement would have to be almost unencompassably vast, like the Bowery street vendor I used to buy hot pretzels from when I lived on Staten Island and was coming over on the ferry, taking on the Petrie Court Café and Wine Bar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and earning a couple of Michelin stars. I’m not really enthusiastic about putting my digestion and our visitors’ digestion* on the line to find out, either. So I thought I’d play it relatively safe and try to get us in at the Bard and Orpharion, where Peter and I used to go occasionally when I still had more than about three calories’ slack in the daily budget.**
We haven’t been there since the advent of Pooka so the phone number is not in my iPhone contacts list. So, you look it up in the phone book, right? It’s a pub. It wants people to come there and buy things to eat and drink. Right? It’ll be in the phone book.
We have three local phone books: the big local, the little local, and the highlights. I couldn’t find it listed in any of them, under pubs, restaurants, restaurants general, public houses, pub food, hotels and inns (it also has bedrooms), menu guide, English food, elephant hire or washing machine repair. Nor was it in the white pages of any of these. Eventually the amount of noise I was making brought Peter to my side, bearing cold compresses***. And he looked for it in all these places† and failed to find it either. ††
Now it’s perfectly true that at least one of my computers is on all the time and that I take both Pooka and Astarte the iPad to bed with me.††† But I object to the idea of looking up a frelling landline phone number on line. But whatever. Okay. And there the Bard was, with a shiny flashy web site with a lot of revolving frelling video sensitively fading in and out GO AWAY YOU’RE IRRITATING ME. The phone number is tucked away almost invisible behind a frond of hyperactive graphic art.
But at least it was there. I pulled Peter’s elderly cheap still-plugged-into-the-wall phone toward me and punched‡ in the numbers. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. I’m tired of typing ‘and rang.’ EVENTUALLY there was a click at the other end and a robot voice said, your call cannot be connected at this time.
Followed by dead air. No nonsense like thank you for calling, we apologise for missing your call, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you (which a lot of restaurants do), please ring at the following times, please go hire an elephant and leave us alone. Nope. Nothing.
I went back to the web site, found their email address, and wrote them an email. It was not friendly. It expressed surprise that, given their manifest customer relations and communication skills, they had any customers, and adding that they certainly weren’t going to have me, my husband, and our visitors.
Meanwhile we still don’t have a booking for Friday night.
* * *
* Peter can eat ANYTHING. This has been a source of marital friction, not to say snarling, for almost twenty-one years. At least he knows what good food is and objects to wasting time and money on bad.
** THREE? No, no, not three. Maybe one and a half. Put that carrot stick down.
*** And chains, in case the cold compresses didn’t work.
† I think he added plumbing supplies and house removals^, not necessarily because it was likely to be found in either but because there were lots of pages to look through so it gave us a spurious sense of actively seeking our goal.
^ Which standard British phrase I still love after twenty-one years of seeing it in the phone book. It means house contents movers, you know? But I really want to see them remove a house.
†† He did notice a very good two for one deal on elephant hire with free balloons.
††† I also take my knitting, about forty-three books, and several years of back journal issues, mostly homeopathy and gardening. And occasionally some dogs.
‡ It’s not that old. I bought him an old, reconditioned, They Made Things to Last in Those Days indestructible rotary phone a few years ago because it amused me. It broke.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.