Category Archives: Review / Critique

an amusing anecdote

While perusing the local offerings, I found my way to TripAdvisor. Because I often check random details to see how a page is presented, I clicked on the website link on TripAdvisor for San Miguel Grill and Bar in Fayetteville.

Because I’m often dumb, I clicked and closed the webpage 4 or 5 times, as I absent-mindedly thought I had clicked on the wrong link.

I laughed. Either someone paid for a lapsed domain – or someone had hacked the website.

I waited a couple of days to see if anyone noticed. They didn’t. The link connected to a hacked or redirected webpage.

I wrote TripAdvisor and used the poorly-executed ‘report a problem’ interface to let them know a legitimate link went to a porn site.

The link is now gone, so I assume my interaction got attention.

I encounter this sort of thing often enough to wonder how often businesses monitor their social media and websites.

While a business can’t police the internet, TripAdvisor is one of the most critical for restaurants to monitor. Whether it is intentionally designed to allow shenanigans, the truth is that you can’t trust the internet – or the people who use it.

If I owned a restaurant, I would quickly become weary of the review systems and would have to resist pranks.

Fazoli’s And The Case Of The Missing Dressing

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Many people don’t know that the apostrophe in the Fazloli’s brand name is actually meant to represent a tiny bit of flatulence and regret. I’ll probably get an angry letter from corporate when they read this. Their CEO is busy though, studying for his GED. By the way, I’m one of those weirdos who l-i-k-e-d Fazoli’s. I’m glad that the federal government opted to not require us to wear a special hat as a warning to others.

A friend recently hilariously recapped her working experience at Fazoli’s when she was young, shorter than a table lamp, and evidently 47% invisible. Working anywhere tends to force you to realize that some things are better off unknown. In my case, working at a dairy and seeing clumpy black milk being put into the holding tank ruined me for milk, not that that I was huge fan prior to that. I couldn’t look at milk, knowing that it contained filtered cow manure, urine, and things best left unmentioned.

At its high point, Fazoli’s made it to 400 locations. Northwest Arkansas had several. While I don’t trust my memory, it seems like our franchises went under due to personal financial issues with the owner. If I’m wrong, I apologize. It was a sad day for gourmands like me when they shuttered their butter-infused doors for the last time. During one visit to the location in Fayetteville, I overheard someone tell the manager that “Fazoli’s is the People of Walmart  of fast food.” I laughed then and it still amuses me.

I’ll be the first to admit that Fazoli’s was the bologna sandwich of Italian food. Given that my primary requirement for pasta is “quantity over quality,” I loved Fazoli’s. Just to be clear, I didn’t care if the pasta was made from reconstituted paper products: I loved it. After discovering they had an off-menu “all you care to eat” option, I combined this fact with my unnatural and demonic love of their Italian dressing packets.

I almost always ordered plain pasta as well as packets of the Italian dressing. This caused a lot of confusion. No matter how many times I’d tell the cashier, “I want 2 (or 15, let’s be honest) packets, and please charge me for each,” most of them would confusedly stutter and stammer. Most had to turn to a manager who would stop running and sweating long enough to explain to them that there was a single packet charge. More amusingly, watching them math out the complexities of 25 cents X a number often took several tries. As you can guess based on my previous stories, I would sometimes tell them, “I want 20 packets of dressing.” They would turn to no one in particular and holler, “CAN I sell 20 packets?” It was an infinite series of amusements. It was a sight to behold, watching as multiple people asked me to repeat myself: “Do you really want 25? We’re going to have to charge you? How much is that? OMG, that’s too many!”

Later, they increased the price per packet, undoubtedly in retaliation for idiots like me. It was common for them to forget to give me the packets, even after I paid for them. No one enjoyed returning to the counter and waiting impatiently while our congealed food products sat on the lonely table behind us. That is part of what surprised me about them offering an all-you-can-eat option. There were a few customers who made them regret that offer.

If you’re wondering if I used all those packets? Yes. If I had any left, I would take them home. While in the restaurant, though, I’d also use the dressing as a dipping sauce for the breadsticks.

I continued this tradition at the other dubious chain The Olive Garden. The dressing was always my favorite. To this day, it is one of the few go-to dressings we buy. Sometimes we buy the light version. It contains 50% less of the industrial additives and petroleum as its full-bodied counterpart. If I don’t request an extra bit of dressing on the side while ‘dining’ at Olive Garden, I barbarically dip the end of my breadstick into the bottom of the translucent salad bowl to find a drip of the Italian dressing there. If I don’t have in my bowl, I sneak over to the next table, distract the people eating there, and quickly dip my breadstick in their bowl.

I love all sorts of things on pasta and macaroni. Salad dressing, Louisiana hot sauce, A-1, raisins, wing sauce, soup, sliced tomatoes, fried goat eyeballs (just kidding on that one, I think), and various other things. Let’s be honest: you can take a look at my physique and easily determine the likelihood that my youth filled itself with truckloads of pasta.

I heard rumors that the Fazoli’s breadsticks had enough butter on them to grease the chassis of a 1968 Ford Thunderbird. Because I was born in Arkansas, my immortality convinced me to be unconcerned with such trivial details. I tend to joke that pepperoni will be listed as my official cause of death. They might add in “Fazoli’s butter” as a secondary cause. I imagine a bit of it is still stuck inside my venous system, ready to cause a grease fire once my cremation starts. I apologize to the Berna family if that happens. Crematoriums are expensive.

As for being the bologna sandwich of Italian food, most of us will admit that bologna sometimes is exactly what we need. Even though it is made of the innards of animals too unlucky to avoid being combined into a giant industrial blender and then pressure-heated into cylindrical tubes, we enjoy it. It’s best not to note what is in it. Having worked in meat plants, I can confirm that most packaged meats are made in a process that will immediately remind you of explosive diarrhea, except at these plants, the result is cooked rapidly.

Regarding the garlic overload, I buy minced, powdered, and various forms of garlic by the bucket. It’s a good thing that garlic pills are used anecdotally to treat high blood pressure. There are times when I return home from being gone and am stunned by the wall of garlic and onion aroma that greets me upon my return. I think my cat is growing a Luigi mustache from breathing so many garlic fumes.

While I loved the cheap offerings of Fazoli’s, I can see why people had issues with it. Restaurants employing younger people invariably run into similar issues with consistency, cleanliness, and risk to one’s health and sanity. As the old joke points out, you get to pick 2 out of 3: quick, good, or cheap – but never all 3.

When you factor in that their food was somewhere on the “microwave meal” range, it’s no surprise. While it might preclude me from getting a security clearance to admit I loved their pasta drowned in packets of Italian dressing, I did.

Unlike all the other fast food places I liked, Fazoli’s never made me sick. Not that I know of. That’s saying something. I’m assuming that they irradiated all their food.

I love reading clever reviews of cheap fast food. If I owned a fast-food chain, I’d print such reviews on my own products to be snarky.

As for the picture, it’s to gratefully acknowledge that Fazoli’s was both good and not good simultaneously, an attribute shared by every single fast-food chain in the United States.

P.S. The title of this post suggests another story I’ve not confessed to!

 

Shamway

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While I worked at Cargill, one of my white coworkers approached me with his pitch. He was enthusiastic in his approach. What he didn’t know is that I saw him coming from a mile away and was already calculating how best to both amuse myself and learn something from him in the process. Being poor granted me the ability to avoid spending all my money foolishly; most of mine went for rent, pico de gallo, and an acre of french fries.

I’ve been thinking about some of my shenanigans due to the Showtime show, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” starring Kirsten Dunst. It takes a darkly comedic view of MLMs.

I invited my coworker Mitch (not his real name) to come to my residence. At the time I lived with a co-worker from Cargill. He owned a trailer in a park in Johnson. This is the trailer that would later give me the opportunity to say, “A plane crashed on my house.”

Mitch left his car running in the driveway, a common tactic used by converts to the scheme. As I listened, my roommate Ray shook his head in wonderment. He lived for years in California. As a result, his exposure to MLMs was vast. Later, he shared some of the stories of friends who had ruined themselves with such endeavors. I let Mitch do his pitch without being too problematic. It almost killed me. At the end of the first phase of his pitch, he asked me if I was interested. “Yes, but I’m more interested in how this ends for you, in three months or a year because it is going to end. Badly.” Because he’d spent a great deal of time with someone in his upline, he had a pat answer to redirect my point. I then said, “One thing I noticed is that you didn’t identify your company by name at any point. That’s one of the key warning signs for a pitch.” Mitch became nervous. I stood up and shook his hand and told him I wished him the best of luck. “Think of this as a training exercise. I’ll make a list of things that caught my attention.”

Ray stood up and told him, “Your pitch is pretty good, Mitch. I’ve heard a lot of them. But I recommend you quit now and start your own business or do your own thing before you spend a lot of money to make $10.”

Later, I gave Mitch a list of critiques. I made my comedic recommendations alongside my serious ones. He took the list. He stuck with the program for several more months, although after a couple of months, he began to drastically talk about it less. He quit Cargill without notice. Months later, someone told me he lost several thousand dollars buying his merchandise before quitting the MLM.

Over the next few years, I went to several pitches to see how much creativity might be involved. As you would guess, not very much.

Later, as people approached me with new opportunities to own my own company, be my own boss, I varied my responses from amused to indignant to gauge how it affected them. They couldn’t understand that I’d already peeked behind the MLM curtain. I asked them all, “Name one person you know who made the kind of money you claim. I want to talk to them.” No one ever gave me such a name, at least not a reasonable one. “I’ll follow up with you in a year. I hope you strike it rich. I’m rooting for you. And you should feel free to tell me ‘I told you so’ when you do!” No one ever did.

The same was true with timeshares and other similar high-pressure sales. One of the best I ever witnessed was in Mexico during vacation. The presenter was incredibly adept at countering every conceivable question or insight. Discovering that I spoke Spanish, he tried the ‘divide and conquer’ method. I switched to ‘batsh!t crazy’ mode and completely destroyed any means he tried to get back to normal. I ran down the clock and many of the other participants/victims joined me in ruining any chance we’d be stupid enough to buy a timeshare. Despite the free souvenir blankets, ponchos, bottles of tequila, and free meals, I finally got him to admit that each session paid for itself with only ONE person or family signing up. His usual success rate was 1 in 5, much higher than the average. This interaction was one of many that reminded me that when a person argues after the first “No,” you’re being manipulated and it is best to flee by any means necessary.

I learned long ago that you can’t convince a person in the cult of an MLM to listen to reason; they must finish the fatigue and finish line of their own accord, often after weakening countless friendships and connections.

One MLM currently going the rounds had to disclose that less than 2% make more than minimum wage doing it, and very rarely can someone live on the income generated. Most quit after losing more than they ever earned. Having a family member or close friend involved in any MLM is exactly like having a used car salesman living with you.

All of us have experienced the agony of a social media friend getting started in an MLM. The cringe factor is immense. Many of us have learned that it is impossible to tell them they are making a mistake.

MLMs are like religion; those involved want to do all the talking and seldom wish to hear your input.

All of us universally cringe when someone gets snagged by the tendrils of the promise of easy money.

As with some religious views, don’t make the mistake of trying to get people to see reason. They have to discover it for themselves.

Whether it is skincare products, essential oils, nutrition drinks, or clothing, it is never worth it. I am still waiting to get to know one person who has made a living from it. I certainly know a lot of people who have lost their social media friends by abusing their connections with these ‘business opportunities.’

For just an hour a day and $43,543, I’ll teach you how to do the same.

Beanfield’s & Trombone Pants Syndrome

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In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” Douglas Adams described the alien Vogon spacecraft this way: “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

While the description is metaphorical nonsense, it makes perfect sense. This is the sort of whimsical logic that appeals to me. While most observers would think it isn’t reflective of who I am, they are mistaken.

I recently tried another food which is nothing like the name would suggest. Somehow though, it eclipses the source inspiration for texture and flavor. In addition to a flavor that is plant-based, you don’t have to idly wonder how close to the pig’s anus the skin you’re eating might have been prior to being a pig carcass. When it’s fresh, it definitely fulfills one’s texture-based cravings.

On my last trip to my favorite cabin, I was shopping using the ‘anything goes’ method, one which is characterized by pure whimsy. On one of the aisles, I saw Beanfield’s Vegan Cracklins. The grocery stores in Eureka Springs and Holiday Island offer selections that are often unique, right alongside the expected staples of a smaller town grocery.

I’ve tried Beanfield’s bean chips. I loved the Pico de Gallo flavor. They aren’t available in my customary stores. I’ve been banned from Whole Foods ever since the incident on April 24th of 2019. Okay, that isn’t true either. But I like to think I made you wonder, just for a second, what I did to get banned from Whole Foods.

It sounds like a prank, doesn’t it? While I like putting fried pigskin in my mouth as much as the next guy, something about the packaging appealed to me. I picked the “Spicy Nacho” flavor under the mistaken notion that it would be the one my wife would enjoy the most. I usually choose based on whatever is the most outlandish.

Available in Chile Limon, Spicy Nacho, Ranch, Korean BBQ, and Frozen Bat’s Testicles flavors, there’s a flavor most will like. That last one? It isn’t real. They do, however, also have one labeled as “Aged White.” I can only ASSUME it is aged white cheese flavor, instead of some older gentleman named Archibald, Harold, or Bernard. Popular fads aside, most people don’t want products that are made from, or smell like, actual people. The people that do want to buy such products are not ones you should invite over for a game of poker unless you’re prone to self-loathing. Take note, Bachelor fans.

I didn’t buy them because they are vegan, gluten-free, rich in protein, or high in fiber. I bought them because it sounded weird to me.

My wife decidedly disliked the Spicy Nacho flavor, allegedly because it was ‘hot.’ Being of Irish, Scottish, and English descent, even white bread is a bit on the spicy side for her.

The texture is ridiculously crisp and the flavor pervades each cracklin.

For conservatives out there, eating this will not turn you into a liberal. You’ll experience a mild urge to tax and spend, so keep that in mind as you try them.

As with all bean products, over-consumption allegedly will give you Trombone Pants Syndrome. It’s not fatal, no matter how much your family groans and writhes as you all cluster together in the living room watching Netflix.

P.S. Eating these is what made me so buff.

 

Harp’s Violin

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One of the surprise Xmas gifts I bought Dawn was a tiny violin for her to play when her mom and sister whine.

My wife and I went to the Gutensohn Harps yesterday. Our main purpose was groceries. We ate lunch from the delicious deli bar upfront. The food was amazing. As always, we took a minute to cry and complain about the disparity of quality, selection, and presentation between Gutensohn and the store over by our house. I could hear tiny violins playing in the background as I whined. Harps, if you’re reading this, I’m asking you to replace the entire store in east Springdale. After I ate, I found the manager and heaped praise on her for the incredible store.

I have only so many tears to cry. I may need to take Dawn’s tiny violin to the grocery store with me from now on.

Where The Crawdads Sing

“Writing a book demands so much specificity, in disagreement with the obvious truth that our most profound moments and memories call to us from inside the gauzy shrines of cheap childhood blankets, our tiny, unlearned hands clutching portals to the world disguised as books. We remember the creeping heat of a wood stove in the middle of a room, the silence before grandmother could shout at us for slamming the screendoor, or the interval between day and night when the fields slowly darkened as lightning bugs began to dance, granting us momentary amnesia from the remembered itch of an army of mosquitoes. And yet, we ran outside to greet them, no matter how hot the air or tired our bones. Another moment awaited, even if the moment drummed its fateful fingers to get to us. If you find a book that effortlessly draws you into another state of feeling, you should add it to your list of gratitude. If it does so while not shying away from the lesser of our human failings, it is okay to weep for the time when the book will be finished and its last page revealed.” – X

I see no need to mention the plot of the confines of the book I’ve mentioned.

These words speak, as did the words of the book.

 

Robin Hood of the Retailers, Version Aldi

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I’m not going to share the ‘why’ of my previous oath to avoid Aldi grocery stores. Suffice it to say that they earned my dislike. Unfortunately, I carried the prejudice forward for years. Once bitten, twice shy, at least for this guy. It’s for the same reason I don’t buy meat products at a Dollar General. Russian Roulette is a game I like to watch in action movies – not participate in when my gastronomical choices are at play.

Aldi has many fans. People like blood sausage, too, as well as watching baseball on television, so popularity doesn’t equate to sensible. The store chain does have a few things going for it. It’s like the “Frugal Hoosiers” made famous in the tv show “The Middle.” The chain does have the “Twice As Nice Guarantee.” I’ll take the expectation of a safe, quality product or my money back. You don’t have to sing and dance for me – just meet expectations. Anything else strikes me as a means to acknowledge that you’re cutting corners on a square house.

“There’s a sense of discovery at Aldi that you don’t find in a traditional grocery store,” say many fans.

Yeah, like discovering the off-brand version of the mustard I had to buy tastes like a chicken fart.

I don’t mind that an Aldi store doesn’t have staff answer the phone. I don’t need to talk to a head of lettuce before I shop. It’s stupid, though. Just my opinion. Any corporation which reduces a customer’s ability to interact isn’t customer-focused, no matter how prettily they paint such an arrangement.

Location quality varies, as is the case for many retailers. Even I often forget that it’s unwise to compare one location of a business with another. There’s too much volatility between managers, cleanliness, and adherence to quality standards. Sometimes, a great manager can rescue an otherwise failed store. The Kroger Superstore in Hot Springs, for example, is spectacular, while the Kroger in my original hometown is… not. One of the Springdale Neighborhood markets is operated as if it’s a psychological experiment geared to determine how much people hate themselves. Harps Foods is so inconsistent in quality that I’m still incredulous that the individual stores are operated by the same system. I dare anyone who visits the Gutensohn and Lowell locations to challenge me to a pie-eating contest to decide the truth of my opinion.

On a whim, I stopped at a local Aldi earlier in the year. I went home a different way, and Aldi was locationally convenient. It didn’t hurt that I had recently suffered blunt-force head trauma. I don’t know what came over me, but the urge to eat a bowl of fish aquarium pebbles and stop at Aldi penetrated my reptilian brainstem.

The smaller footprint of the stores and parking lots of an Aldi store make a trip less invasive than a similar trip to the airfields found at Walmart. The smaller footprint of the stores means you might not find everything you need, either. Like your sanity.

I didn’t have a quarter, so I did the hands-full shuffle. I found some interesting items. One of the items I bought was inedible. (No, I didn’t attempt to return it.) On the next visit, I had a quarter. I stuck it in the slot for the cart, and it literally stuck. None of the carts would come out. I went inside and waited a couple of minutes for an employee to make eye contact. I told them the cart corral was needing attention, and I couldn’t get a cart. Eye roll. “There’s no one to deal with it.” Back to checking. Aldi’s employees often must do multiple jobs simultaneously. It’s not their fault: it’s corporate’s fault. Like Walmart, they ‘save’ money by eliminating jobs. Many of those jobs lost would have allowed for attentive customer service and real-time listening when things go awry. I didn’t get irritated at the cashier.

I can only hope that this attitude of cost-cutting doesn’t one day find me in the O.R. needing a suture to sew up my own abdomen.

For my next trip to Aldi, I withdrew $20 from an ATM and then stopped by the car wash and made change for quarters. I drove back to Aldi and parked on the outer perimeter of the parking lot.

I then went to the cart corral nine times. Each time, I inserted a quarter and ‘rented’ a cart. I took each cart to the edge of the parking lot and used the nine carts to make a large arrow facing the store. I’m no Banksy, but I did feel a twinge of stupid pride when I finished my artwork with the shopping carts.

I then went back to the cart corral and took out ten more carts, one at a time, by paying a quarter. I left them loose to the left side of the return corral. Because I always carry white index cards, I left a card on the first few indicating, “Free Cart. Please leave loose.” People observed me doing all this but didn’t comment.

Was it petty? Yes. Worth it? Yes. I was also paying it forward, though, even as I entertained myself.

One of the women shopping exited the store and told me she had watched me assemble the arrow on the other end of the parking lot. “It’s stupid, isn’t it? Just hire a person and keep the store tidy.” Due to her appearance, I was sure she was going to scold me. Her face was pulled back so tight I could hear her ears yelling in pain. She was nice, in any case.

People saw the loose carts with the cards on them, and each smiled and grabbed their free cart.

I felt like Robin Hood of the Retailers.

Imagine. Free carts, with each of us leaving them for the next person. Like a typical store not corraling us into doing their jobs for them.

If I can enter a store and not worry about expired food or being unable to shop easily, I’ll pay for the entirely reasonable expectation of a normal shopping experience.

When people ask me, “What do you like best about Aldi,” the only thing I can tell them is, “I don’t have to go there.” The second-best thing is, of course, the feeling of walking out of one of them.

If I have to choose between Aldi and Walmart, I’ll choose a lobotomy.

If I make the mistake of going to Aldi again, I plan to take 500 quarters with me. I’ll let you imagine what I might do with such a quantity of quarters.
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P.S. If you’re a fan of Aldi, I’m not worried about you reading all of this. It’s a lot of words.
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Poldark Ends. Or Does It?

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Guest Post:

 

The series finale of Poldark ends, as Ross turns away from Demelza and boards the ship to France, to spy for the British… “I will return,” he says, his devilish grin belying nothing.

It’s likely he will return, albeit years older, in the inevitable sequel which will pass to the next generation of Poldarks, assuming both he and his friend Dr. Enys survive their foray into French espionage.

In the finale, George sees the ghost of Elizabeth once last time. Her back was turned as she entered Trenwith, even as George departed his adopted home, perhaps forever. For me, this was the nod to the sentiment of the series. It’s inescapable that some of the show is indeed soap opera-ish. Almost 90% of all the plot twists could have been avoided if people simply communicated directly. On the other hand, this sort of logical human discourse would make good drama impossible.

The actor who played Poldark in the original version of the series in the 70s made several appearances in this series. Poldark’s horse Seamus has its own Twitter account. (Yes, really.) If you want to visit Trenwith, it’s Chavenage House, in Beverston, Gloucestershire. If you were confused by the layout of the surrounding mines, villages, and towns, don’t be: in reality, they are not proximate. (And Poldark didn’t travel everywhere via the coastline and cliffs, as the series would have you imagine.)

Like Elizabeth’s ghostly return, the rebirth of another Poldark storyline is inevitable. Everything rests on the shoulders of the writers who can imagine the full world that Poldark brought to us.

The series finale is a call to remember that the principal characters will carry on, even if in our imaginations.

All of our stories must end in a predetermined conclusion. Drama, laughter, and finality.

May this serve as a tentative ‘goodbye’ to the series. I will miss the show, but certainly not the hat.

I am certain that another line of Poldarks will live to remind us what we found so sublime and delightful in this series. I’m predicting that they’ll find another unnaturally good-looking actor to serve as the focus of the revival. Don’t bother calling me, BBC One. I’m busy.
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Gringo Needs a Taco

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One of the worst restaurant experiences I’ve ever had happened this week. It wasn’t because my stepson was with us, either, because he coined one of my new favorite phrases/restaurant names: “Gringo Needs a Taco,” in comedic response to our increasingly despondent faces as we realized that we were in the middle of a culinary catastrophe.

We have some amazing restaurants in Northwest Arkansas, especially Tex-Mex ones.

Our closest go-to Tex-Mex place, Acapulco, is still closed due to a kitchen fire in January. They claim they’ll re-open in July, although I don’t believe it. Most of the great staff they had have found positions at other restaurants. One of our favorite people surprised us at Las Palmas in Springdale. The other similar eatery on this side of town has never managed much success. (Which basically applies to any restaurant on the east side of Springdale.) I’m convinced that Americans mistakenly believe that the other Tex-Mex place is taqueria-style. It doesn’t help that it’s in a shopping center that seems like the shooting stage for season one of the Walking Dead. By the way, Playa Azul has a buffet some days. It’s great, especially since it’s impossible to find a Tex-Mex buffet anywhere.

The shining grace was an effort by one of our favorite waitresses – one not assigned to our table or area of the restaurant. We tried to reward her with a tip before we left. She noticed that my 4-lb. order of pico de gallo had been left negligently on the serving shelf. Evidently, I’m the only one who orders massive quantities of this delicious menu item. She came back later to hesitantly ask, “Has someone taken your order?” I think her first clue was that we had read the entire first book of the Harry Potter series since we entered. Our assigned waitress seemed like someone had swapped her favorite beverage with a chilled cup of straight white vinegar.

She might have been Amish, as her shunning ability was expert level.

It seems like we were unwitting participants in a customer dissatisfaction experiment. We felt terrible about the experience. The manager was simply speechless at how badly things had gone and struggled to explain it. He was relieved when I told him, “No harm, no foul,” even as I complimented the waitress who wasn’t assigned to our table. We left and were rewarded with a torrential downpour. Our spirits were so hammered that we all drove to Burger King. As you probably know, its new motto is, “Where Dreams Go To Die.”

Saturday, Dawn and I went to another Tex-Mex restaurant. We walked out after 15 minutes. On the way over, we discussed the consequences of not following our instincts. The person seating walk-ins could not have been more reluctant, with the exception of the admiration and attention she was giving her personal cellphone. The matriarch of the family by the door was throwing eye darts as she uneasily shifted back and forth, waiting, while attempting to corral two young boys. We had the misfortune of being seated in the far back corner. The matriarch and her family received great attention. I could tell that woman simply wouldn’t tolerate shenanigans or inattention. It’s difficult for me to be pushy, though. The manager was so engrossed in something unrelated to work that I couldn’t even let him know that we were leaving.

I’ve been known to get up, go outside, and then go back inside sometimes as if I hadn’t just walked out. Usually, this either makes people confused or laugh. We left. I’m glad we did because our final choice was a delight.

We ended up at another restaurant and were delighted. The food and service were impeccable. We joked with all the staff. I drew pictures on my index cards as we chatted with everyone, even as watched a table of gringos make their faces numb with way too much alcohol. (The one bad moment was when one of the gringos was a little violent with a precious curly-headed little girl. He doesn’t know how close he came to being force-fed a plate.) It was strange to have such a great eating experience after two terrible ones.

As I always do, I ensured that karma was paid forward by tipping the waitress 100%. She was delighted. So was I. Belly full, and smiles for all.

One consequence of a bad dining experience is that I always find a way to pay it forward to the next great person we encounter.

P.S. I didn’t even order pico de gallo at this restaurant, as I didn’t want to tempt fate.

Gringo needed a taco.