Last weekend, I left hubby at the mercy of the kids, flew down to Los Angeles with my sister to spend Mother’s day with our wheelchair-bound mom.

The main event of our Mother’s day weekend was the big dinner on Saturday night. My sister and I had invited our 96-year-old grandmother, all of our Aunts and Uncles, plus a couple of cousins, and my sister’s best friends. Fourteen people in all. Our Dad had made a 6PM reservation at a big famous Chinese restaurant.

We arrived at the restaurant just after 6PM. As the elevator door dinged opened, I was shocked by the sight of the jam-packed lobby full of people waiting to be seated. Thank goodness we have a reservation, I thought! We carefully pushed my mother’s wheelchair to the front of the hostess station, and were immediately rushed by family members who all came not to greet us, but to tell us that our table was not ready.

We parked ourselves right by the hostess station, feeling sure she would have someone lead us to our table shortly.

A long time had passed, and I was still standing facing the hostess. It wasn’t boring from where I stood. The non-stop flow of exchanges between the pissed off customers and the hostess was entertaining. Unhappy customers who exercised restraint came to inquire about the waiting time, and to remind the hostess that they are still waiting. Unhappy customers without self-imposed restraint simply lashed out at the poor hostess for not letting them in to eat.

The small lobby was a chaotic mess. With two elevators continuously dinging open, more and more people came up, and far fewer people went down. Even worse was the constant loud noise, that only shut off for a very brief second when the hostess called a number into her hand-held microphone in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.

By around 6:30PM, I was still quite and patient. I felt sorry for the soft-spoken young hostess. She got yelled at by everyone, but no one whose number finally got called up came to thank her.

One angry man came to bark at her–he was “special” because the language he used borderline profanity. To which, the soft-spoken hostess pointed at us, and said, “They have been waiting since 6 o’ clock too, and they even have a reservation.”

The man turned to look at me. I gave him a weak smile and nodded….that’s right…we are bigger losers than you are.

“It’s true. We have been waiting for over half-an-hour now. When do you think our table will be ready?” I finally asked the hostess.

“I don’t know…” the hostess said. WHAT?!! This squashed my hopeful “any minute now” thinking.
“What do you mean, ‘you don’t know’? We have been waiting here very patiently.” I said, pointing to my poor mom sitting in her wheelchair.

“Yeah, well, we have a wedding here tonight.” the hostess offered as her excuse.

This is true. The problem with big famous Chinese restaurants is that they cater to wedding banquets. A pair of geniuses decided to get married on Mother’s day weekend, and they took up half of the restaurant to celebrate their marriage.

I HATE lame excuses.

“Wedding banquets are booked months if not a year ahead of the time. So your restaurant already knew that you would be having this wedding when we called 2 weeks ago for this reservation. If you can’t accommodate us, you should not have taken our reservation. Then we would be eating somewhere else by now!” I was beginning to get upset.

I turned to find the faces of my family elders. My Aunts and Uncles all looked starved to death and unhappy. Except my 96 year old grandmother, who smiled and waved at me. She looked as serene as ever. Grandma can’t hear much, she is nearly deaf.

By 6:45PM, I felt a tug at my leg, I bent down to see what my mother needed. She asked me to just take her back home. My mother hated going out ever since she lost her ability to walk due to a stroke almost 2 years ago.

I spoke to the hostess again, with a great deal of urgency this time. I pointed at my 96 year old grandma, and at my mom sitting on a wheelchair, and at random old people in the crowd that represented my elderly Aunts and Uncles, and asked how could they make such an abused group wait nearly an hour…with a reservation in their book.

“I have a table of 8 ready for now. How about we split you into two tables? Just one table is ready though.” the hostess offered sympathetically.

“YES! We will take it.” me, while shouting at my sister to gather all the elders, and let them all sit and eat first.

My cousin and I wheeled my mother in, following the staff taking us to our table.

The restaurant was massive. It was jam packed, and the volume here was even louder than in the lobby we left behind.

We carefully pushed my mom’s wheelchair through the chaos, and finally lead into a separate room inside the restaurant. It was a good size room with its own entry and door, overly packed with tables surrounded by noisy patrons sitting in tightly-packed chairs.

The staff leading the way walked towards an empty table across from the door, as my cousin pushed my mom’s chair towards the table ahead of me. I stopped in my tracks…. and right there! to my right! was a large ready set empty table staring at me. EMPTY! HUGE! It can seat all of us!!!

“Wait, wait, wait!” I called out to the uniformed lady in front, pointed to the big empty table, and asked her, “Why can’t we just sit there? It can seat all 14 of us.”

“That one is reserved.” She replied quickly.

“Exactly! That’s us! We have a reservation for a table with 14 people.” I explained excitedly, they must of made some horribly mistake with all the drama going on everywhere.

“No, that one is reserved for someone else.” She insisted.

“We made a reservation for 6 o’clock. And now it is 7. We have been waiting for AN HOUR!!” I began to shout.

The staff lady walked over to me to speak, I think to avoid yelling over the other customers, “This customer already picked out his dishes, and prepaid for their dinner.”

I hate LAME excuses!

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR RESTAURANT!!!!!” if I were a cartoon character, this is when my face would turn completely red, and the top of my head would blow up.

“LOOK! My mother is sitting in a wheelchair, and my grandmother is 96 year old, and we have a reservation at 6PM. You made us wait in that mess of a lobby of yours for an hour, when you have a table sitting here empty for god knows how long.” I am now roaring at the top of my lungs.

“I don’t care if you have customers that came and already paid for their dinner. Are you afraid that if we all sit down, we won’t be ordering food, and when we are done eating, we won’t be paying you?! WHERE IS YOUR MANAGER?!!” me shouting.

The whole room’s eating frenzy paused, and all eyes are looking at us now. Angry people are usually very entertaining… if you are not the one angry.

A guy wearing a suit with a name tag ran in quickly, waving at the lady, and pointing to the big table, while yelling, “Just seat them, just seat them.”

We all sat down at the table, completely exhausted. I quickly borrowed a pen, got a piece of paper, and ordered all the dishes by myself. We needed no more drama that night, and 14 people negotiating the right kind of dishes to order can easily lead to drama.

The restaurant made up all that wait time by delivering our dishes to our table with rocket speed. As soon as the appetizer was laid down, the giant soup bowl arrived. As soon as our waiter scooped the soup into 14 bowls, the kitchen maids arrived in tow, and handed the dishes to our waiter one by one, who placed them on our big table.

All our dishes were served in record setting time, leaving us with a spoon in one hand, chopsticks in the other, and our eyes on the lazy Susan, sizing up the dishes we definitely didn’t want to miss out on.

This room was so loud, and our table so big, I had to withhold my customary inquiry into grandma and all the elders’ health. I was happy that they delivered the food quickly. We just ate, and ate quickly. The restaurant needed us to clear their table quickly to make room for their next batch of angry customers.

Downstairs, out of the elevator, we scattered out to the walkway of the outdoor shopping center. The cool evening air was crisp. By the parking lot, we finally greeted each other. They all thanked my sister and I for the dinner, and we apologized to all of them for the headache-inducing meal. We said our goodbyes, and headed toward our cars. Then I remembered…”Wait!” I called out. They all turned…..

“Happy Mother’s Day!!”

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