I had dinner with my family on Monday night to celebrate my brother, Jim's, 37th birthday. We went to a very nice restaurant on the Decatur Square called "Eurasia". It's an upscale place-- dim lights, candles on the tables, soft music and white linen tableclothes. Everyone spoke in hushed voices, as if the were in a library. Except for my family. I've always been convinced that my brother, Joel, has a hearing problem. He compensates by talking very loudly. Mom had had a couple of vodka tonics and that always make her a little louder, too. Jim had driven from New Orleans to Decatur to celebrate his birthday with his family-- he hadn't eaten that day and within 15 minutes was drinking his second double Crown and Coke, which causes him to get loud. I kept asking everyone to lower their voices, because it was getting embarrasing. Then the young waiter came around and told us of the night's special-- a combo of three of their signature plates: rack of lamb, salmon filet and scallops. Mom wanted the special but wanted to substitute sea bass for the salmon-- Jim wanted to substitute steak for the lamb, Joel wanted double salmon and no scallops. After a little negotiating with the chef, the waiter came back and said that since it was a slow night he would make the substitutions. While we waited for the food, Jim opened his presents and the conversation got louder again. I politely suggested that maybe our family should celebrate birthday's at Morrisons or the Picadilly from now on. They all called me a fuddy-duddy.
Then the food came out. Everything looked great-- presented very beautifully. Immediately hands started reaching across the table to everyone else's plate. "I just want to try that sauce" was followed by someone's finger in my plate, followed by a licking of the finger, followed by a return of the newly-licked finger to my plate. Everyone had a big time sticking their fingers in each other's food. That's my biggest pet peeve--- if you want salmon, order salmon. Don't eat off of my plate or ask me to eat off your plate. I don't like other people's fingers, or used utensils in my food- even if that finger belongs to the woman that gave birth to me. Maybe I'm just selfish. Anyway-- as three sets of arms continued to dip and double-dip into each other's food, Jim's cell phone rang. It was his daughter Ashley calling to wish her Daddy a happy birthday. Sweet. After Jim spoke to Ashley he passed the phone around. It wasn't a good connection, so everyone had to talk louder than before. As the last person spoke to Ashely, I started to breathe easier- maybe people would stop staring at us and pointing. Then Jim's son, Jaime, was on the phone. Once again, the phone was passed around and everyone got to scream to him. After the phone made it's way around the table, Jim's ex-wife Angie was passed the phone and she also needed to talk to everyone at the table. Finally the phone was turned off, we finished our meals, coffee and desert. In typical Burnett fashion, we got into an argument when the bill came. Some people didn't pay enough, some paid way too much, and Mom insisted on leaving a tip that would be enough to put our waiter through grad school.
Maybe I am a selfish old fuddy-duddy. Maybe I'm a prude or a snob. I should've enjoyed and celebrated being part of a loud and overly sharing family- who cares what people think? I'm just not built that way-- if we were in a bar or a family style restaurant, it'd be different. It was like being in the episode of a Carol Burnett skit where Eunice takes her Momma and her husband Ed to a nice restaurant and they misbehaved and argued the whole time. I felt like Eunice. Keeping up appearances can be dangerous. I'll try to be better.