Just came back from a lovely lunch outdoors, my first dine-out with friends since the start of the pandemic. I believe it was their first dining out, too, since March last year. A young lady from Mexico, a young man from Japan and I leisurely walked two blocks to Bill’s Café in Palo Alto. The perfect spring-like weather, a bit coolish, blue skies, sunshine, light breeze from shady trees lined at the side of the lane. We couldn’t have asked for more. We were euphoric to be able to socialize outdoors. Never mind that we waited in line for half an hour. The important thing was, we thoroughly enjoyed the chat during the wait, and we got seated soon after 12 noon at one of the best situated round tables under an umbrella.
What I didn’t correctly hear was that we were supposed to order with our cell phone reading a programmed plastic pasted on the table, a technical innovation that I hadn’t experienced before. So when the waiter came to take our orders, we hadn’t made our choices. We were waiting for the regular menu. Again, we didn’t mind the delay in getting our food. After all, it was delightful just chatting away to get caught up on each other’s news, as we basked in half shade, half sun. A peculiar celebratory atmosphere dominated. From the cheery conversations and liveliness of people around, this was the general feeling. And it felt good!
But we were starved and could not ignore that fact. I stood up and grabbed three menus off the counter inside the restaurant. The choices were simple. There were pictures of the offerings in the large menu booklet. Bill’s Café specializes in breakfast food prepared, cooked and presented in a variety of ways. I told the Japanese friend that if he was hungry, any of the skillet dishes would be the best pick. But my Mexican friend and I who ordered omelet and scrambled mix each got a heaping plate – the amounts just as much as the skillet dish. Remember, I bragged about the skillet dishes, well other orders were just as plenty and abundantly piled up. Food galore for this hungry bunch.
The tables outdoors were adequately spaced. Customers were allowed to dine inside at tables arranged with wide spaces in between. Everyone was wearing a mask, customers and servers alike. The folks in line observed distance. The servers were quite efficient at wiping the tables and chairs after the customers left, to ready for the next batch. Caution has become our regular and new norm that masking didn’t seem to be any awkward or obstructive to speaking. The chatter was lively and incessant, except of course when we were busy with food. Though having had our first dose of COVID vaccine, all three of us were still quick to put on the mask if not eating. The “new norm” felt quite normal actually. Strange, nothing seemed inconvenient at all. Others may disagree, but that’s just the opinion of one person who hasn’t gone out of the house very much, and finally out for an outdoor dining for the first time since March of last year.
So happy were we of this adventure – weird, don’t you agree? But something we hadn’t done in a year was in essence an adventure. A delightful one, and to this baby boomer Lola, a tad more exciting. We agreed to make this new norm adventure monthly – and try different restaurants for outdoor dining. Funny, though, that before my two friends left, I said I’d cook spaghetti for next month’s get-together. One friend said she’d bring dessert, the other volunteered to bring something yet unknown. Then I thought, this wouldn’t be outdoor dining, this would be indoor. So, where would be the adventure in it? Maybe I should think about cleaning my patio and clearing the leaves off the cement floor.
But I still wondered what happened to our plan of trying outdoor dining at different restaurants. Hmmm …. that probably would depend on how good (or bad) I cook my spaghetti at next month’s shared meal time.