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NO APOLOGIES...!


Recently Terry, Eden, and I were in Portland, Oregon for Terry's meteorology conference. As Terry was busy with seminars and whatnot, I was charged with sorting out places to go, eat, and play when he had down time.

Organization is not my strength. I am more of a "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" kind of gal. None the less, I took my duties seriously but given the bent of my personality, it is not at all surprising that this happened.

The last night we wanted to avoid the fast food, chain restaurants, and convenience store snacks for an authentic Portland experience. And as the city is just a fat hour from the coast, seafood is definitely a specialty.

I have experimented with making a good clam chowder, but there seems to be a bit of disconnect between the recipe and the final product. So it was time to try the good stuff.

So I logged onto the computer and researched unique eateries featuring fantastic seafood. I carefully checked the menus and the prices. I came up with what I thought would be a huge winner. The restaurant was situated in the city center, featured an eclectic menu, and even better had what I considered to be reasonable prices for dinner. The entrees were priced between $14 and $18. Not bad.

So I called, made reservations, and that evening we headed downtown. Portland, as with any large metro area, is a challenge when it comes to parking. But we found a place within six or seven blocks of the restaurant and parked the rental.

Now you know that feeling of joy when you are about to tuck into a great dinner? If you are a foodie you know what I'm talking about. Most of you probably experience it around the holidays. I am going to be straight. I am not a great cook, so that feeling of eating euphoria doesn't happen if I'm in the kitchen. On the plus side, you can easily lose weight at my house.

So there we were...skipping along the blocks of downtown Portland, taking in the sights, enjoying the big city feel, and savoring the anticipation of a really cool restaurant ...all on a warm June evening. The restaurant did not disappoint. It was perched on a second floor with great views. The tables sported white tablecloths and shiny silverware. There were wineglasses parked at each table setting. This was a classy joint. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for unearthing this little gem.

The waiter glided over. No, seriously. He glided. He was a consummate professional. Knowledgeable, friendly, and courteous. He handed over large menus that required two hands to hold. Nothing laminated here.

My first clue that this was all about to go disastrously wrong was when he inquired if we would care for spring or sparkling water. The water was obviously coming with a price tag. A little warning bell went off with a sharp clang.

We declined. Eden ordered a diet soda. Terry and I went for a beer on tap. The waiter exited stage left. Then we opened the menus.

Okay first off, the entrees were spectacular. Featuring seafood dishes that some very talented chef put in long hours developing. But the prices. Those tiny discreet numbers next to each fabulous description of culinary cuisine designed to bring you mouthwatering to your knees.

I gaped. Terry frowned. Eden looked pale.

Ever get that bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. Like you just watched a baby bird fall out of its nest and you know it can't fly (and there's a cat under the bush). Well, multiply that by three. The least expensive dish on the menu was $40.00. With drinks and a tip that meant there was no way we were walking out of there without dropping close to $200.00.

We sat silently with menus held up and no one saying a word. Frozen diners. The tension ratcheting up. The oxygen sucked from the air. This was not the fun, carefree evening planned.

The waiter arrived. "Would you care to start with an appetizer?" he inquired.

Umm...make that a no. We ask for a few minutes to contemplate our choices. He nods understandingly and leaves.

I blurt out, "These were not the prices I saw online!" Terry says, "Maybe we could just order an appetizer." I know he's trying to rebound. I am still trying to figure out how this went so wrong.

"Maybe I looked at the prices for the lunch menu," I said. There has to be a reasonable explanation and I have no doubt the misunderstanding is mine.

"Well, we don't have to stay," Terry says. Just get up and walk out? That seemed rude and uncool. I look over at Eden. She is mortified. She's 13 years-old and just about everything is "soo embarrassing" (including her parents).

"No," Terry says, "We'll explain it to the waiter. These prices are just too high." I mull that over. I am thinking of a more palatable excuse. But to say we didn't care for the menu or the restaurant would be a flat out lie.

Terry continues. "It's not that we can't pay for this, " he said. "We could, but we didn't plan for this. Are you comfortable spending this much money?" he asks.

No. No I'm not. It takes the joy out of the evening to know you are outside of your financial comfort zone. I would probably sit there and figure out all the things I could have purchased with the $200.00. Eden continued to look miserable.

It was time to man up.

"What do you want to say," I asked him.

Terry didn't hesitate. "I am not ashamed to tell him the truth. The menu is more expensive than we thought and we can't pay it." I nodded. He was right. Just tell the guy the truth.

The waiter came back again with pen poised. Terry jumped right in. "Look," he said. "This is a great restaurant, but we just didn't count on the prices and we can't afford to go this high." He added, "I'm sorry."

The waiter was amazing. He didn't snatch the silverware off the table. Instead. He smiled reassuringly and said, "Absolutely no problem. I very much appreciate your honesty. Not many people would have done that."

Eden started relaxing and smiling. Well, we all did. It seemed we could salvage this evening after all....and it was because of this waiter.

"Thank you for your understanding," I said.

The waiter waved it off and told us to enjoy our drinks, the view, and the evening and when we were ready he would present us with the bill for the drinks.

Which we did.

Twenty minutes later we left. Walked a few more blocks and popped inside a bar and grill. The place was pretty nice. The menu still pricey but not sky high. But the kicker came with the waitress who explained that because it was after nine p.m, it was happy hour for food and drinks.

Guess who walked outta there with a $30.00 ticket (without tip)!

Honesty really does pay!

Carolyn

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