“A restaurant is a fantasy-a kind of living fantasy in which diners are the most important members of the cast.” -Warner LeRoy

Some days even the very best of intentions go sideways. Tonight we decided to try the new Italian restaurant in town. The place was elegant for our town and the food was said to be exquisite. We waited 20 minutes to be seated with the explanation that some big parties had just come in. The waiter was personable and full of stories; we were starved. Then we waited, and waited some more. When 30 minutes later we got salad and bread we were ravenous. Confident that we wouldn’t wait nearly as long for our main course, we worked to keep the conversation flowing.

At 60 minutes, still no food in sight, hunger turns into something else resembling exasperation. We are a family that loves good food. My children have a wide and experienced palate from all the lovely restaurants we have dined at over the years. They also have vivid memories of all the bad restaurant experiences we have shared. As we sat waiting at the table, all of varied places and times of ridiculously bad service spilled out onto the table. They are in some ways more indelibly marked in their consciousness than the food.

Something about our negative experiences, whether they are loss, rejection or just bad service recalls all the other moments in time when we had a similar experience. We laughed recalling the times, although I winced a bit, too, as my anger and frustration was known to have gotten the better of me in many of those situations. Tonight I am proud to report, I expressed my dismay with compassion, pointing out what I liked about the place and the people even with the kitchen’s inability to get everyone served in a timely way. Someone once compared the successful restaurant to a well oiled team. All the roles are well defined, the relationships between them perfectly timed. This is the magical alchemy of a great restaurant. Both the waiter and the manager were really lovely people who seemed to genuinely care about our experience. In truth, it was that human connection that felt most memorable and fulfilling than anything we ordered.

Man does not live by bread alone. For me what makes my life tick is the relationships. As the manager, Rosetta, handed me her card and asked me to call her personally when we would be coming back, made the earlier wait a little bit shorter and certainly less meaningful. I will go back and try it again. Everyone deserves a second chance.