A Surprise

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As a follow-up to part of my post from yesterday, I returned to the scene of the crime at Fisherman’s Wharf in Hot Springs. As is the case in some many restaurant experiences, the waiter made the difference last night. I didn’t catch his name, which is unusual for me to forget to do, but he reminds me of Ben Mendelsohn and Ray Romano merged. I’m not sure how many miles he walked, but rarely have I seen so much hustle in a person. After our meal, I got a good glimpse of who I imagine he is as a person. A younger mom was at the railing with her two children, watching the ducks troll for morsels. Our table’s waiter went and procured a massive handful of crackers and a bit of some kind of fruit for the birds. Meanwhile, I handed the mom all my change so that she could use the feed dispenser along the rail for duck food. (I normally avoid having any change on me, as I tend to fling it a mile in the air as I walk across a random parking lot, much to my wife’s continued chagrin.) The waiter then topped my gesture by running to get the young daughter a side dish bowl to use to collect the duck feed as it poured from the dispensing machine. We laughed at each other’s kindness.

 

The waiter also had some type of facial tic with his eyes, one that was difficult to avoid noticing. To my surprise, I recognized him somehow – and knew he had a facial tic before I even knew he was our waiter. It was the weirdest strike of déjà vu, so unusual that I commented to Dawn when he walked up. About 30 minutes later, another man walked past and I said he was the assistant manager and that his nickname was “Beds Are Burning,” after the Midnight Oil video so many years ago. It turned out I was correct about that, too. (To be fair, the assistant manager looked like he had just been told that someone set his bed on fire.) I’m sure you’ve had déjà vu before, which can be disconcerting – but it has been a long, long time since I’ve two bouts of it in the same day, much less so closely together. If a third bout had struck me, I would have jumped over the railing on the restaurant deck and into the lake just to escape the Matrix forming around me.

I have to admit that last night’s revisit to Fisherman’s Wharf was a pleasant surprise, one that accentuates the “hit-and-miss” aspect of this great location. It’s located directly along Lake Hamilton and if you so choose, you can sit on the outside covered deck extending across the water. This time, we were lucky enough to sit along the end that featured several large fans. Granted, the fans created more volume, but we were already animatedly chirping like excited magpies. (Also, it created problems with peppering one’s food, or sprinkling powdered sugar on one’s sweet potato fries.) When we went out on the deck, I immediately picked the ideal spot to prevent melting while dining – and it paid off.

For location, it is difficult to beat the ambiance of this place as the sun begins to drop below the horizon. The boats slow, drifting past and as staff turns on the dim overhead lighting, you can feel the mood shift down a notch or two. It’s a great environment to enjoy a meal, talk to friends, or arrange a mafia hit.

I’m not a seafood fan but at least Fisherman’s Wharf has a large enough menu to offer everyone a decent choice. My meal consisted entirely of side items and about 15 accumulated dipping sauces. They were all delicious this time, especially the baby potatoes. In regards to my own food, it was perfect.

Even though it darn near killed me to do so, I went to TripAdvisor and did another review, this time under my own name, and gave them four stars. (If this had been my very first trip, I would have given them five stars.) I also sang the praises of the waiter, as he deserves a pat on the back. It is such a pleasant surprise to be rewarded for going against one’s own instincts and trying a place again. My previous visit was truly a textbook example of everything to avoid doing as a business. However, the waiter redeemed it, along with the fans and great conversation.

No one threw me over the railing and no fights broke out over who was going to eat the crackers – which was a real possibility during my previous visit. It was a good night, and the experience reminds me to try places again if enough time has passed since I’ve had a terrible experience.

All commentary aside, though, the chance to banter with smart, creative people marks these occasions. I would be just as satisfied with a slice of pizza and a soda, as long as I’m also provided a megaphone to ensure that I get a word in edgewise.

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PS: One of my annual traditions is to draw massive artworks on the paper-lined cafeteria tables at the conference. Yesterday, staff rolled it all up before I had enough time to decorate it. (In a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.)  So, I made do with what I had available and thus made a literal house of cards to beautify the lonely table.

 

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