Sunday, March 3, 2013

Want to Feel Like a Buffoon? I'll Tell You How!

I can think of dozens of illustrations from my life that will guide you if you are on a quest to look like a buffoon. Off the top of my head I can think of the following awesome events: "Dancing Queen: The Time I Had a Lemon Thrown at My Head While Trying to Dance at a Disco"; "Creating a Scene: Falling into a Decorative Pond at the American Embassy in Brasilia While Demonstrating a Scene from Superman in Front of Admiring Friends"; and "Flooring It: How to Speed Over a Grassy Median in the Target Parking Lot Instead of Backing Out of a Parking Space as Intended."

Ah, fun times, and what a lovely stroll down Memory Lane that was! I still laugh delightedly when I think about gathering the courage to dance at the disco, only to have some oaf hurl a lemon at my head. Ha ha! But, I've gotten sidetracked by these amazing memories, and really there's no need: I felt like a buffoon mere hours ago, so please allow me to share it with you while it's fresh.

Because we spend all week making homemade meals and eating snacks that adhere to the Swank Diet, we like to go out for a change of pace on the weekends. HAHAHA, okay, I can't type that with a straight face. We always went out to eat on the weekends, it has nothing to do with Swank. Somehow, it just sounds better to say it's in response to slaving away in the kitchen all week than to say it's because we like to eat out. But there. I said it: we like to eat out. It's been only slightly challenging to find Swank-friendly options at local restaurants. Typically, I order fish and ask that it not be sauteed in butter or order pasta with tomato sauce and vegetables.

Today, we decided to try a place we've never been: Vapiano's  -- my mistake, a quick look at their website reveals it's VAPIANO, no apostrophe or "s." My bad. Okay, so VAPIANO is an Italian place at our nearby mall. It looked pleasant enough; rather upscale-ish (lots of black-and-white photographs of super-attractive people on the walls, and an herb garden enclosed in a teeny greenhouse in the middle of the restaurant).

I guess if I'd stood on the table in a sassy, hip-thrusting pose while my husband pointedly ignored me, we'd have fit in better? 
One rather jarring note at the entrance was a bowl of loose gummy bears by the hostess stand. I guess they're the upscale Italian equivalent of the bowl of pastel mints at old-timey restaurants that you should never, ever eat because of the trace amounts of fecal matter that have been transferred from the hands of people pawing around in the bowl. I saw this on Oprah. (Also from that poo-themed Oprah show: always choose the first bathroom stall at the movies; it's the least contaminated.)

So we entered VAPIANO and promptly encountered the Mumbling Host. It's possible we couldn't hear him over the rather pretentious 80s music (you know, the kind the cool, artsy, troubled kids who wore lots of black listened to). He mumbled something about the pasta being cooked fresh and gestured over his shoulder to where, yes, there was some poor fellow trapped in a glass box making pasta and hanging it over metal arms to dry. He then would jam a serving size into a small brown paper bag and hustle it over to where the cooks were stationed. The environmental impact of this performance wasn't lost on me (couldn't they take the pasta over in reusable bowls?), but now our host was mumbling something and thrusting a credit card-like thingee into our hands as he vaguely pointed to a cluster of sullen-looking people standing behind a counter. Gripping our weird credit cards, we were cast adrift into the restaurant.

We stood aimlessly next to the host's station, hoping he'd see our burgeoning panic and step in with further guidance. Alas, he had other fish to fry. We edged closer to the sullen-looking people behind the counter. Over one of their heads was a sign that said "Pasta." Okay...this seemed a likely place to start the ordering process. I looked hopefully at the young man. He looked back at me impassively. Couldn't he tell we didn't know what the hell we were doing? I pleaded with him with my eyes. No dice.

Feeling more like a horse's ass with each passing second, I marshaled my courage and purposefully strode the two remaining steps to the counter, where the cook still regarded me with those soulless shark eyes.

"Hi!" I squeaked. "So, do we, like, order here?" I gave him my most winning smile.

"Yep," he said, thoroughly underwhelmed by my winning smile. (Must practice that.)

"Okay, it's our first time [DUH] and we're not, hahaha, totally sure how this works. Do we give you this?" I asked, propelling the credit card thingee (CCT) toward him.

"I'll take that when I'm done. What do you want?"

"Oh, boy, okay..." I said, frantically scouring the menu. "Um, pasta with tomato sauce and spinach," I concluded. He looked at me, the very picture of boredom. "Type of pasta?"

"Oh, right! Ummmm [more frantic menu-scouring], papardelle!"

I was exhausted from the stress. My husband ordered and we went off in search of drinks. There was a swanky bar off to one side, but I thought I had heard the Mumbling Host mention a soda fountain somewhere. We edged over to the bar, the CCT still gripped in our hands. There were several patrons hovering around the bar, so we lurked off to the side, looking around in ever-increasing dismay. It was a Day to Feel Like a Buffon, for sure.

Finally, a manager-sort hustled over, seeing we were clearly in distress, and asked if he could get us drinks. Hallelujah! We ordered drinks without too much trouble, except my husband had to scan his CCT over some infrared light at a precise angle or it wouldn't work. Oh, boy. This was quite a production. I began to feel the first inklings of irritation, where before I had felt merely bewildered and intimidated.

Drinks in hand, we set off to find a seat. No ordinary booths or tables at this restaurant, no, sir! There were stools and benches framing long wooden tables, at the center of which was a fresh plant -- basil or rosemary, from what I could tell. Okay, that was pretty cute.

Our personal basil plant. Are you supposed to use it? Has it been washed? What would Oprah do? I avoided it. 
We picked our table and clambered onto the stools, only to realize our food was ready at the Counter of Sullen People. We slid off our stools and made our way, with some trepidation, toward the food. It looked quite good. I asked the gent behind the counter for a glass so I could get some water. He handed me a glass. It had detritus of an organic nature on it. I asked for another. This one, too, had detritus on it. I meekly took it back to my stool and slumped there until my husband offered to get a THIRD glass (from a different Sullen Counter Person). This one had something stuck on it too, but it did not smear into a booger-like glob when I tried to remove it, so I decided this was the best it was going to get. I flaked off the bit of dried-on tomato and ate my lunch.

The food looked better before I attacked it like a starving animal.
As I said, both entrees looked good and tasted good. It was just the elaborate and confusing set up combined with the cook's 'tude (as the kids say) that left me feeling a bit like a buffoon. Oh, and the decor. See for yourself:

Mysterious objets d'art in the ladies' room. I examined that red thing at some length. I still have no idea what it is. A gourd? Corn cob?

Yep, that's a tree. In the middle of a table. Enough said. 
So there you have it. The latest in a (likely never-ending) series of Episodes During Which I Feel Like a Buffoon. Next time, though, I'll be well-versed in the ways of this highfalutin establishment and will sail in there in my all-black ensemble (featuring sensible shoes; heels are no longer an option for me, sadly), stand imperiously on a table, and order my pasta with authority.

p.s. Remember those gummy bears? I spotted a casualty of the restaurant languishing outside the front door. In the absence of Wee Squeaky, this is my fun picture of the day.

"Don't make me go back in there!" 


  1. I think the gummy bear has the right idea. I would not be going back in a hurry. Pretentious merchant bankers (think rhyming slang).

    1. There actually was a small trail of gummy bears, apparently trying to defect!

      Oh, no. The rhyming slang for merchant bankers has eluded me. Maybe after more coffee? In the meantime, if anyone knows, please share the answer!

    2. Americans don't say "wanker," so it's not obvious to us (although I've been around enough Australians and Brits to get the joke. :-)

  2. Fess up! You PLANTED that gummy for the photo op! Or, should I say, Liberated it, right? Don't forget, next time you stroll down memory lane, mom's Hard of Hearing episode in the nice restaurant in NY which led to our Uncontrollable Giggling Fit Wherein We had to Excuse Ourselves and Leave the Table. Oh, yes, all in front of MY then-boyfriend and his parents!! It's always more fun to be a buffoon in good company! MK

    1. Ha! No, I stayed far, far away from the gummy bears. It did take a bit of nerve to crouch on the ground in front of the restaurant and take that picture, though.

      There are many fine buffoonish episodes I could recall, certainly including the one you noted! (Don't forget the Highly Inappropriate Giggling Fit During the Funeral...) I sense a theme here with us.

  3. Hello Cranky,
    What a bunch of bankers!!! How rude. I hope you never ever go back there and anyone googling said restaurant comes up with this post, meh.
    I once went to a bizarre restaurant in London where you went round different counters then at the end, you placed your plate onto set of huge scales and you PAID PER WEIGHT!! I mean, really.
    Your defecting (not defecating..) Gummi Bear made me snort coffee yet again through my nose. Note to self - do not read Cranky's blog with coffee.
    p.s. random, but true - I can sing the German advert for Gummi Bears. Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene eben so....Or something like that. Mis-spent youth.

    1. It's unlikely we will return any time soon, unless it is for additional blog material (I may get desperate!).

      There's a frozen yogurt place nearby where you fill a bowl with yogurt and then walk around to various stations piling on candy (among the options are gummy bears, which sounds awful). At the end you weigh the monstrosity you created and pay accordingly. It's sort of embarrassing when your once-small dessert turns out to weigh 5 lbs and cost $23.

      I thought of YOU when I took that picture. I don't travel with Wee Squeaky and was amusing myself with the thought of posing her in various places in the restaurant (e.g., next to the red gourd/corn cob). When we left and I saw the defecting gummy bear, I thought, "I must take a picture for SIF, even though I will look idiotic."

  4. That's funny! I said to the builder today at work, 'Oh CrankyPants said SUCH a bizarre thing the other day.' Silence. 'Who???' 'Oh, you know, Cranky?'
    Wish you were on Twitter - I'd have oodles of fun uploading random photos.
    Very bonkers thing just happened. I grazed my arm with a bit of plasterboard at work. Nothing serious. Tiny little graze. Got home. Two hours ago I was scratching my arm and looked down in horror. I have the most horrendous bruise - black and blue and massive. Am now booked in for blood tests tomorrow. Meh.
    Only problem with Campath - the whole blood thing. Best to get it checked out though.
    Anyway I will stop rambling. I really do think we have the same, immature, juvenile but supremely funny sense of humour as each other. You've certainly brightened up my life, thank you!

    1. Ha ha! I said to my husband the other night something and I used your real name. He knew who I was talking about only when I said, "Remember -- Stumbling in Flats??" Recognition dawned.

      How hideous about the bruise. Keep me posted on how you're doing and good luck w/ the tests (I'd be a nervous wreck already).

      Oh, pshaw! Thank YOU, SIF, for making me laugh practically every day.

  5. You used my real name???? Doris McWhippersnapper?? How could you, Cranky??
    Anyway, that to one side, SIF isn't bad either, but really does sound like a cream cleanser for kitchen surfaces, meh.
    I'm staying (relatively) calm about bruise, but was scared enough to flee to my mum's house and go, 'LOOK!!!!!' She put some Arnica on it, bless her. Bit scary. Not worried, as not dead yet, yay!
    Actually, I am worried a little bit.
    Er. Scary. But, no, it's fine.
    Right, am off. Wish you had a chat room and/or on Twitter. Meh.
    Bubble is doing my head in. She's now taken an awful lot of interest in Wee Bubble since she was photographed.

  6. Oh if I think about the germs...I may never eat out again:) I like Italian food and your dish looked good...

  7. THAT was a funny, funny story!

    I imagine the table with the tree would be nice during Fall foliage.

    The Gummy Bear's only hope for escape would be to get stuck in the sole of someone's shoe. Poor guy.

    1. Sock, I'll have to stroll past this autumn and see; I think you are absolutely correct about the foliage.

      Yeah, poor little bear. I think about him a lot. Hope he's okay...

  8. It would be a travesty if Oprah doesn't do an investigation into the purpose of potted basil plants on the tables of pretentious eateries. Funny blog. Love it.

    1. Floydmol, for whatever reason Oprah's not returning any of my calls, tweets, emails, or Facebook posts on this Very Important Matter. In fact, I've been getting some vaguely ominous correspondence from her attorneys. Hmmm.

      Thanks for your nice comments about the blog!

  9. You weren't the buffoon. Those pretentious bankers were. You almost make me glad not to be able to eat out anymore!

    If it makes you feel any better, I have my own embarrassing buffoon story. I failed my first driving exam... because I drove up on the sidewalk with the examiner in the car (I've never performed well under pressure.) This long-ago story is fresh on my mind, since I just had to renew my driver's license.

    And now I will be thinking of those poor excrement-laced gummies, desperately trying to slither their way to freedom.

    1. You know, hearing of others' buffoonishness always DOES make me feel better! Thank you.

      And now I, too, will be thinking of the slithering excrement-laced gummies. Poor little dudes, indeed.

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