I honestly thought I was ready. Last Friday was one of those perfect early-summer evenings: sunny, warm-but not too warm- a wisp of a breeze. A perfect night to dine al fresco at one of our local restaurants.
The restaurants in our little seashore town have been open for 10 days so we would not be on a maiden voyage. My son and his family had already eaten at Marco’s once the week before and declared it a safe place; servers wearing masks, paper tablecloths, napkins and menus and disposable plastic utensils. Each table was 6 feet apart and there was no wait if you went early enough.
Oh the joy of deciding what to wear for a REAL NIGHT OUT (if you count 5:30 ‘night’), of putting on make up and fixing my hair. Wearing REAL SHOES! Marco’s has fabulous food and a great wine list. We were so ready for our first foray back into the mainstream. Except.. we weren’t- or more accurately, I wasn’t.
Seated with my son and his family we were 4 adults and 3 little ones. We were well-separated from other diners and Daniel, our waiter, was friendly and socilitous. Maybe too friendly? The things I normally would consider traits of a good server clanked loudly against my heightened Covid-fragile sensibilities. He just seemed to come around too much, hover too closely, pull his mask down too often. He talked too much about things unrelated to the menu or our order. I wanted to scream I don’t care that you have one more year of school left, that you’re a corn hole enthusiast, that you invented this Coronarita as you listed the ingredients. As my discomfort grew I don’t know who I was more appalled at, Daniel, for his invasion of my newly defined personal space or myself for my intolerance of his unwitting crossing of my boundaries. I’m a nice person! I’m a kind person! I love to chit chat and hear your stories. But not tonight. Not. Tonight.
I had my first glass of wine in weeks but it did nothing to ease my anxiety. I played a bit with Rosie, my 6 year-old mini-me granddaughter, who like me had thought about her clothes and shoes, her wild curls pulled up in a messy bun. But I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t enjoy the experience. Conversation with my son and his thoroughly-engaging wife was stilted and forced. I just couldn’t get into any of it.
We ate quickly and declined dessert. I got most of my meal wrapped up but left it there deliberately. Why did I do that? I don’t know. We’ve gotten our share of take out from Marco’s during quarantine so why was tonight so different? We paid the check. I think my final breaking point was the pen: Daneil gave me an ‘any old pen’ to sign the check, not a new pen, not a ‘keep the pen’ but a somebody-already-touched-this pen that made me feel icky to use. I could not get out my hand sanitizer fast enough.
5 days later what is my takeaway? Am I not ready to eat out again? Was Daniel just a little too intimate for the situation? Was it because there were 7 of us rather than just Jack and me to consider? I was not expecting this skittishness in going back to normal, not even this new-normal they’ve been touting. Or maybe I got thrown off this horse and have to get back on as quickly as possible. I don’t know if I’m ready yet but Jack and I are planning to try out a new place in Mystic later this week. I’ll let you know how I deal with my Covid PTSD venture take 2.