Mr F's parents do not like to go out to eat... or rather not outside of a very rare occasion. They particularly don't like to go out for breakfast. I'm unsure exactly why... I don't know if that seems like a particularly wasteful meal to go out for, or if they are just too food picky to eat someone else's eggs. I imagine it is a bit of both.
We love to go out for brunch... particularly a good brunch buffet. Love it.
This Mother's Day fell on a Sunday... like it always does. This particular Sunday was the last day of Mr F's parents visit. The fact that it was Mother's Day (my Mother's Day) trumped the fact that they were in town and Mr F booked reservations at a local hotel for brunch.
This is a pretty nice restaurant and we've had brunch there quite a few times. They have a nice buffet and it is surprisingly inexpensive. Win win right? Who wouldn't like that? Which is exactly why we took Mr F's parents there on a previous visit. That is how we found out how seriously they take their "we don't like to eat out for breakfast... especially buffets" stance. They ordered a muffin off the menu. Seriously. The buffet was all you can eat with a freaking carving station, drinks included, for 9.99 but whatever...
Well there aren't a whole lot of nice type breakfast venues to choose from so Mr F made reservations there (Weber's for you local readers). Mr F being Mr F he didn't ask any questions about their "Mother's Day Brunch". Nor was he tipped off by the 2 PM reservation slot when normally they have switched to the menu by then. He booked it. He told me... but he didn't not tell his parents... not when they arrived, not the following day... not even Sunday morning. At approximately 12 PM I asked Mr F if he was operating in "secret mode". He laughed and said he was operating on an "as need to know basis". Perfect... because that tactic has been so useful in the past...
Shortly thereafter Mr F finally decides it is time to inform his parents that we are going out to brunch at 2. I sense a stiffening and maybe a confusion since 2 is pretty late for brunch so I pipe up "Linner... we're going out for linner." Funny... yes I know (Trust me it's not a discriminating audience and there is no point in busting out my A- list humor). Pretty close to 2 PM I make mention that it is close to 2 PM. Yes that's kind of how it goes during these visits. Noticing that Mr F's parents were... um... in casual attire (and by casual I do mean a brown sweat suit) I decide to wear jeans. Not because it was appropriate (it wasn't) but because I didn't want them to feel awkwardly underdressed. Of course it would have been better if Mr F had told them of the plans ahead of time so they could have dressed nicely... but that's a whole different post.
We get everyone in the car and head out. The first sign of our impending doom was visible from quite a ways off. Hundreds of cars were in the parking lot... and on the surrounding grass. I've seen that before... when they are having their "special" dining for Thanksgiving. It never occurred to me that this would be one of those holidays. As it turns out they had over 3000 reservations on Sunday. It was a madhouse. Did I already mention that Mr F's parents don't like to go out to eat and are pretty out of their element when going to Chili's... yeah so you can start to see this is not going to go well.
The last time we were at Weber's for a holiday was Thanksgiving of '03. I had been making my mother's wedding cake and could not take the evening off to go out to her house for dinner. We ate at the hotel with friends. It wasn't good. The food wasn't bad but the atmosphere of the (clearly) third tier banquet room... sitting at long tables with strangers (hey like the Pilgrims!)... other people's crumbs and food bits covering the floor... was less than festive. Apparently it is impossible to turn these tables over as quickly as they are and keep things appealing. So when his mom and I got inside and the maitre 'de said "Brunch? You need to check in downstairs." I knew Mr F had royally fucked up.
To start things down the slippery slope to Hell was the checking in process. The reservation is really just a ballpark time apparently. You check in and then are seated in order. We were #13 to check in for 2 PM. We were seated around 3 PM. Fine. While we're waiting we can see into a gorgeous banquet room. When our name is called we are told we're going to "The Atrium". Oh Uh. Remember that 3rd tier banquet room? The one right next to the indoor pool? Yup... that's "The Atrium".
On the way there Mr F's mother pipes up to the hostess "I'm so glad we are being seated before the woman who cut in front of us." I'm sorry what? I checked us in. We had a reservation. No one was cutting... it was just a total madhouse. "What?" I ask. "The woman who barged in with the 2:30 PM reservation I'm glad we got seated first!" She replied. To which the hostess said "Oh well we go by reservation time and seat all the 2s before the 2:30s." "Well... I really didn't want to see her get a way with it" My MIL continues. What is there even to say... um... she didn't... why are we bitching about that?
Now we enter the "banquet room". Hmm... 2 PM means a LOT of people have already eaten in here.... and it shows. We get seated at a table with no settings. The food is not "hot"... not bad... but not "hot". My FIL has a thing for his food being served piping hot. Since I'm sitting next to Baby (of course) and I am on kid food prep duty my food is not going to be hot either which way so I might not have noticed had I not overheard him saying to my MIL "it's not hot (referring to his coffee) either is the food." I'm a little tense because obviously this is pretty much a worst case dining scenario. On top of that no one is talking... well outside of muttered complaints.
So I'm "enjoying" my Mother's Day. Eating cold food, drinking room temperature coffee (yum), and wrangling the wild one while she rubs watermelon all over the white tablecloth. Just then I notice a commotion at a table behind us. Some woman is yelling at the manager about something... fun... that definitely improves the mood. And then... then people... the goddamn emergency door alarm gets triggered. So there we are sitting, awkwardly not talking, with the alarm going off for a good 5 minutes. It was really unbelievable. I almost could have cried had it not been just so perfect... so perfectly horrendous. I mean really what else could have gone wrong... oh I know...
When my FIL finally got the attention of the wait staff (who never cleared our plates mind you...we actually "bussed" our own table) and complained about the cold coffee... the waiter poured him a fresh cup... and kept on pouring... until it had overflowed the cup... and the saucer. Okay now that is perfect. Could we just stop there?
No you say? You'd be right...
When we get the bill I think I see a 7 on the upside down slip and think to myself "You have got to be kidding me... 70 bucks?!" So I pick it up and see that it is actually closer to 80. Okay so apparently Mr F did not ask how much this "Special Mother's Day Brunch (in Hell)" was. Well I know his Dad would have a heart attack if he had any idea that is how much it was so I hand it to Mr F. He is unphased (of course). I'm pissed. On top of a horrible day and truthfully horrible brunch with horrible service we are now out 80 bucks.
Out of nowhere his Dad gets up and intercepts the waiter and apparently gives his own credit card. While I'm anxious because I didn't really wish for him to know how much it was, I'm also relieved because I won't have to go home resenting everyone as much as if we had paid (just being honest folks). When his Dad sits down to pay the bill he says to me (yes the first thing he had said all day) "How much tip should I pay on this?" Are kidding me? Why are you asking me? How about asking your freaking son who is sitting right next to me? So I said "I don't know." And he said "Well how much would you usually tip for Mother's Day Brunch?" Well... I wouldn't.... I'm the mom! After an awkward pause I said "I don't know... we've never been here for Mother's Day Brunch before." (a refrain that I had repeated about 100 times since the moment we had arrived in the parking lot... along with "Ask [Mr F]... he made the reservation.") Since he wouldn't relent I just said "well I would certainly not give more than 10%."
He paid the check and then looked at us and said "Well.... Happy Birthday [Mr F].... and Happy Mother's Day [Mrs F]." in as flat an affect as possible.