20 August 2011

The List : A True Story

My wife has a list. It’s kind of a long list, but it’s hers and she’s entitled. I think we all have lists. Some of us keep them private; some of us limit them to certain things. My wife’s list is broken into categories.

For example, there is the celebrity category. We do not watch movies with Brad Pitt, Angeline Jollies, Tom Cruise, and a few others. I cringe when a favorite celebrity gets their name in the headlines. If they have done anything to offend my wife, they are going to end up on The List, and there will be a whole new library of films, video’s, or music we will know longer enjoy. Though I have yet to actually see The List, I imagine it as a scroll of yellowed parchment with worn wooden handles. It’s thick, and when unrolled, could easily reach from Intercourse, Pa. to Nowhere, Az. You can find me there, right in-between screwed and lost.

You may think its nuts, funny, stupid…whatever. I love my wife. And for the most part, I love her list. Love your wife, love The List. For better or worse. On The List or not.

She also has The Restaurant List. Now, I can always find another movie to watch, but The Restaurant List has severely hindered our places to choose from when dining out. It’s far more extensive than the Department Store List, or The Grocery Store List. I would have to say The Restaurant List is the longest one and the most volatile. You just don’t want to get her started.

The Celebrity List for me is odd. These are people we will never meet and have no direct affect on our lives. Yet, she can be very and personally offended by the actions of some of these people. I think, if she had been in the studio when Tom Cruise went off on Matt Lauer…well, let’s just say Tom doesn’t want to get up close and personal with my wife.

We have argued over the Celebrity List. I love her. I love her list. I swear.

The Restaurant List, on the other hand is off limits. Somewhere down the road, she might…I said ‘might’ watch a Brad Pitt movie…(Though she will never watch Mr. and Mrs. Smith because they are ‘both’ in it)…she will never budge on the Restaurant List.

I won’t go in detail about each and every category. We all have our own personal reasons for putting something on the list. Like the gum-chewing cashier who is talking on her cell phone while she is charging you $499.00 for that bottle of Ibuprofen that you need now more than ever. Or the guy who made the left from the right turn lane and cut you off as he thanked you. (It’s tough to put someone on the list for thanking you for not pulling out the AK-47 you just bought and turning their PTCruiser into Swiss cheese.)
But allow me a minute to go over some of the things that will get you on the Restaurant List.

1. Don’t seat us and leave us there for more than 10 minutes without seeing a waitress.
2. Don’t seat us at a table where the 20lb. copper light is hanging so low it hits the husband in the nose. And then tell us “Yeah, that’s why we moved the last people that were sitting here. We can move you too, but it’ll be thirty minutes. Fix it? Raise it? Oh, no, we can’t do that. Not now. It’s busy.”
3. Do NOT keep it to yourself, when it is 102 degrees in the shade, that your air-conditioning is broken. Tell us upfront so we can decide for ourselves if we want to stay or go.
4. Do not repeat the order through the drive-through in a mocking, nasally voice while your headset is still activated.
There is more, but you get the idea. I learned pretty quickly myself.

The List can be a source of ill moods and/or entertainment if you know how to approach her on it. She’s not a Nazi. She does have a sense of humor. Which is why I love her. And The List. We can kid about it as well as argue about it. But The List has always been kind of a club thingy. Family and close friends. If she decides to tell you about The List, you are in. You are part of the circle. Welcome to the Circle. Now, if all she does is say “Oh, their on my List’, you are simply being made aware that The List exists. In my wife’s case, people really should have more info about The List. It’s only fair. Besides, who wants to be on The List? Who wants to be on any one’s list? I believe the ring on my left hand is kind of a shield from The List, but there are things I do…

Love my wife. Love The List.

As I was saying, you have to be in The Circle to know the extent and details of my wife’s List. That is until this past Saturday. This past Saturday, The List was made public. All over our city, children are asking their parents “What’s The List?” and parents are giving them back the confiscated copies of Grand Theft Auto and saying, “Take this and play. And never speak of The List again.” Department store managers are scrambling, muttering in confusion and innocence “She actually ‘has’ a list…” And somewhere, some gum-cracking cashier is drying tears from her eyes as she throws out her last piece of Strawberry-Banana Bubblelicious and turning her cell phone on to vibrate. And far away, across the frozen tundra of the artic, a jolly old elf is googling my wife’s name so he can email her to update his own list.

We were out ‘shopping’ this past Saturday, and decided, as most American’s do now, impulsively, to eat out instead of going home to cook. I’m not even going to get into the details of the three-way conversation between her, myself, and my mother-in-law-via cell-phone-whom-we-invited, about WHERE we were going to go. All you have to do is keep in mind that I and my mother-in-law are in The Circle, aware of The List, and are desperate to keep our favorite places off of it, even if it means we never go there again. At least it won’t be on The List. Even my 10-year-old stepson knows of The List. So as the three adults are trying to decide, he is in the backseat running off the places we CAN’T go to. He has no idea how serious and delicate all of this is. The poor child. One day, he too will have a wife with a List. Yes, I am smiling.

My wife does the unexpected and agrees to go to a place that is on The List. (The air-conditioning incident). I should note (should have) that you don’t always go on The List for a first offense. Sometimes, she will actually overlook the first one. Or so she says. I know she has it on The List; it just has an asterisk next to it. It is ‘pending’.

We meet the mother-in-law at a place called The Roadhouse, a great steakhouse that we ‘used’ to frequent and love. She drops me off at the door (I just had a spinal tap the day before and am limping). I go into reserve a table. It’s about 5:45 pm, and these places are starting to get crowded along the Avenue. There are about 10 or so people already waiting. I walk up to the 2 (yes, 2) hostesses, and ask for a table for 4.
“Smoking or non?”
“How long will it be?”
“It’s the same wait for either.”
This is her first mistake, this high school girl who works seating people on the weekends to buy more ‘Hello, Kitty’ paraphernalia. But my wife is parking the car, so for now, the hostess is safe.
“Yes, but how long is the actual wait?”
“It’s the same for ‘either’. She looks at her co-hostess, another high school girl who seems slightly more mature, as if to say, “Why do I get all the idiots?”
“How many’ minutes’?”
“Okay. Thank you.” And as I give her my name, I look over to the immediate right and notice about twenty empty tables and booths.
“Excuse me, but why a 45 minute wait when you have all these empty tables?”
And I feel bad immediately, because I am an idiot. Her face tells me so. I should not have to ask these things. I should know or be still.
“Be-Cause…we are short in the back.” She turns to her coworker and telepathically says to her “And he is short in the head, eh? ‘snicker’”

I choose not to pursue this, because I realize my wife will be in any second. Quickly, I come up with the plan that if I tell my wife it’s too long of a wait, we can go somewhere else. We can escape before she has a chance to survey the situation for herself. Before another favorite restaurant goes onto The List. I catch her coming up the walkway and try out my plan. She isn’t even slowing down as she walks by me. Forty-five minutes! Why didn’t I say an hour? Or 2 hours?? Fool! I take her by the arm to slow her down, and in a panic, tell her everything. What could I do? My immediate thought was that she would opt for another eatery before she had a chance to go inside and start posing her own questions to the hostess. I was actually protecting the hostess. She was just a child.

Okay. I was trying to keep this place off The List.

My wife decides we can deal with it and we all enter. My mother-in-law eye her nervously as we wait. Suddenly, my mouth is moving and I can’t control it. I am speaking. I am…gulp…complaining, so is the mother-in-law. We go on about the empty tables and how now there is a fourth host (a high school aged male) and..and…

My wife looks at us and laughs. She says “How is it you two are complaing and I am not for a change?” That’s easy, because we are afraid. Like children trying to divert their parents attention form the giant grape juice stain on the carpet, we are rambling uncontrollably. We are helpless in our fear. Yet, we have enough control not to say this. Or to mention The List.

We assess that they are short kitchen help. The grill is surrounded by glass and we can see into the kitchen. There is one cook. A young male. And as we wait I begin to see deeper into the situation. I soon realize this can end in only one way. Another establishment going onto The List.

There is one cook at the grill and he has nothing…NOTHING on the grill and only one ticket.
There are about 12 waitresses (I tried to count them, but they kept moving around..)
Three hosts and a guy that is dressed like a waiter standing with them.
What appears to be 2 managers walking around making sure that none of the tables or light fixtures or silverware is wired with explosives or emitting low frequency gamma rays.
More people coming in and still no one getting seated.
People leaving, so now there are MORE empty tables.
My wife now asking if I want to wait in the car because of my back and my pain (Why didn’t I bring medication. What was I thinking? I knew we could end up going out to eat.)
This is like watching the Kennedy Assassination video over and over. No matter how many times you see it, you know how it ends and you are helpless to stop it.

My mother-in-law spots a seat on the bench and takes the stepson to sit. After about 15 minutes, they are finally seating people. I would have thanked God or Buddha, but they are busy somewhere else. The seatings are purelythe scenario, the nightmare, beginning to pick up speed.

My wife is rubbing my back, gently. I love her. She does care about me. About my pain and discomfort. I wish I could make it go away as much as she does. But for different reasons. You see, my discomfort is only more fuel for the fire. Her husband’s pain is just another catalyst. We are all doomed. All these people waiting to eat have no clue. The kids playing hosts are defenseless, unarmed and sadly ill prepared for the smiting.

It’s after they seat the second couple…the second couple that came in after. AFTER we did, that she suddenly springs like a Bengal Tiger. Her nails dig into my previously-being-gently-massaged- shoulders as she says, ”I’m sorry, but now I have to say something.” I smile and say ‘Yes, dear. Go and do what you must.’ And like Wonder Woman’s husband would do, if she had one, I kiss her and wish her well in my heart as she ventures forth into battle.

From where I am standing, I can’t make out what is being said. From what I can see, the three hosts and waiter on guard are intrigued. She has their attention. She is trying to be civil. I have to wonder if they will allow her to remain civil. Some people actually like seeing a bear with one foot in a trap and the other one on fire so much, they have to take a stick and try to tickle it’s belly as if to say, ‘You are Soooo cute!”

My wife pauses. She has stated what she has observed, that she is confused, and would like an explanation. (An ‘explanation’ in my wife’s very personal and native tongue means “This is wrong. How are you going to fix it?”)

I look over at my mother-in-law, who has one eye on me and the other on my wife as she hugs my stepson’s head to her breast. I turn back to see that the three hosts and waiter on guard have decided, all together, that they will hold hands and walk into the chopper blades while they sing “Jesus Take The Wheel”. I know this, because they are staring at my wife like they are all Pod- People. Which they may well be and would normally excuse their behavior. However, my wife has an extreme prejudice for Pod-People. My wife’s hand comes up…the finger is launched. Pointing wildly….

Ladies and gentleman we are at Defcon 4.

As I watch, my mother-in-law is getting up with the now starving boy who has assessed the situation and looks to me. His eyes plead with me not to let him go hungry.” Alas,” I respond with my own eyes, “this is bigger than both our bellies.” My mother-in-law has an ability to state the obvious and does so as she passes me and says “I guess we won’t be eating here.” This is obvious to me for two reasons. One, is the fact that my wife has not only pressed the button, but is pounding on it as if the silo’s will refill themselves and launch more warheads. The second is that, by some miracle they convince her they will fix everything, apologize, and crown her Queen of the Mardi-Gras, it will only be so that they can saturate our food with bodily fluids and creatures from the insect world they store in a jar somewhere for just such an occasion.

As my mother-in-law exits with the boy, I turn back to my wife, who’s voice has gotten loud enough for me to hear at my distance. She is pointing at me as she ‘talks’ to the hostesses. Obviously telling them I have just had major surgery and am in excruciating agony and should not have to stand for 3 hours while they play “I Spy With My Little Eye”. Her finger is in the face of the first hostess I had encountered. The look on all their faces is sad. Like deer in the headlights they are helpless in their realization that the lights barreling down on them are bad, but there is nothing they can do. They ventured out onto this road of their own choosing. They stood still too long, fascinated, when they should have been running.

And I hear it. We all hear it.

“This place..” as her finger swirls about the air to indicate the ‘entire’ surroundings and it’s employees, “.. was already ON- MY- LIST!”

She turns to me and says ‘Let’s go.” She is out the door before everything has had a chance to sink in. I feel eyes on me.The eyes of employee’s and hungry-waiting patrons. There is accusation there. “You should have told us she had a List?” “So, she’s the One?” “Is that The List?” “THE List?”

I hear a baby start to cry.

I gather myself and quickly catch up to my wife. She is angry, but apologizing for what has now become a major delay in the quest for food. I tell her it’s all right, that I understand, etc., when she tells me that not only did she get ‘The Pod-People-Look” but they…LIED! They told her that when asked about smoking or not, I said ‘Smoking Only’ and THAT was why people were being seated ahead of us.

Something in me snaps and before I know what I am doing, I am going back inside.

At the hostess podium, the crowd has dissipated. The first Hostess is gone, but the remaining 2 see me. They look as if they are ready and willing to accept my apologies and oath to have The List destroyed. I lean on the podium (Because I really am in pain, now) and ask where the ‘other’ one is. I’m not even trying to be nice. They fumble, and I look at the girl and ask if she heard me say ‘Either.”
“Yes. I heard you say that.” She looks at the boy. “He did say that. He told her. I heard him.”
The boy starts to explain how they are short in the kitchen and I explode.

“So, go cook! Where is the manager? Why isn’t he cooking?”
“I can get him for you.” He gulps.
“Yes! Get him. Do that. And drag his sorry ass into the kitchen and chain him to that grill. You people are about to hit your dinner peak on a Saturday night. You have 20 empty tables, thirty people behind me and another 100 or so pulling into the lot over the next hour. Christ, in my day when I worked in a Restaurant this was how you got friggin’ promoted. Some buttmunch called in sick for the 23rd time and someone looked at you and said ‘Hey, busboy! You’re cooking!” This is a freaking mess. You people are a mess. No organization. What are you thinking? Why can’t one of you go cook? Hell, ask me and I’ll cook. The manager should be cooking. That’s what he gets paid for. Any fool can sit in the office and count money and listen to why you can’t work the next 3 Friday’s because you girlfriend needs ‘quality’ time. Tell him to earn his damn money. You should ALL walk out and give him something to REALLY think about.”

And as I rambled, the hostess. The second one…keeps nodding and saying to the boy and all the other employee’s who are gathering..”He’s right. He’s right.” And she starts to walk away. Thinking she is making for cover, I continue my rant, something about how I cut the top of my thumb off at sixteen, went to the hospital and had it stitched back on, and still made it back to finish the dinner rush….and I see her go into the kitchen. I watch as she walks over to the grill, grabs some tongs, and starts to look at the tickets. As I spew out something about taking the manager out back and beating him like a red-headed stepchild with a hairlip and a third leg, I realize the ones still standing around me have all gone to their safe or happy place and I am talking to the podium. I grab the podium and rattle it to wake them up and I smile. “Have a good night’ And just so you know, you’re all on The List.”

Longhorn was a one-hour wait.

Outback was a two hour wait.

I start to wonder if The Roadhouse has alerted the other establishments along the Avenue of my wife and The List. Olive Garden was only 45 minutes. (Deja-vu?) We stayed. They didn’t make the list. The Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo was beyond delicious.

The boy was fed.

The mother-in-law went on and on about how nice Olive Garden is.

The wife got shrimp-scampi but liked my steak better.

And I laughed to myself for 2 hours. If only I had actually had a List…a scroll to pull out and point to so I could say, “Right here. You see? You’re right here. On The List!”

This was originally published/posted by myself in 2006. It was the first story I dared to post and have been hearing about it ever since. 


  1. Good stuff!! Everyone should have a list, I know I do.....