22 August 2011

i feel like a snob

This was not how I wanted to spend my Monday evening, sitting in a fancified chain restaurant off an expressway in the Chicago suburbs.

I was 45 minutes from home, and there was nothing special or unique or charming about the restaurant except that it's what the doctor ordered.

Or suggested; I guess that would be a more accurate way to describe what was going on there. I met with two doctors for work stuff, and a restaurant that was, essentially, in an office park is where one of them suggested.

My job occasionally has me wining and dining and schmoozing doctors, and normally it doesn't phase me. It doesn't phase me because I usually get to wine and dine and schmooze in places like Beaver Creek, CO.

There, I ate at a restaurant on top of a mountain. To get there, you had to take a sleigh attached to a snow cat.

Before I saw the actual thing, all I could think of when I heard "snow cat" were those lumbering machines used by the Empire on that really cold planet in Star Wars.

Someone more versed in that universe will be able to remember the name of the planet and which movie it was, but all I have to say now is: snow cats are nothing like that. They're more like tractors, but you certainly don't feel like you're on the farm as it bumps its way up to 13,000 feet—you wrapped in a fur blanket and looking up a crystallized light, little etched glass points of stars, above the pine trees.

No, I did not mind wining and dining that night. I ate elk and my salad had truffles on it and I even tried rabbit, which I normally don't eat, but it looked so pretty on the plate.

But tonight I did not ride a snow cat to get to the restaurant. I drove on an expressway with thousands of other people trying to get somewhere they're not. Peering through their windows, I wondered, 'Who are you and where are you going and what kind of day did you have?'

I'll never know, though.

Do you ever think about how many people you pass in a day? Especially when you're somewhere like on an expressway in Chicago, you're sharing an experience with so many thousands of people, but you don't know them.

And for all you know, your best friend from elementary school, the one who moved away at the end of second grade, is also on the road.

Or your future husband.

How would you ever know that? How would you ever know that you passed as literal strangers in the night on 355? Even after 56 years of conversation, I can't imagine this question coming up: "Where were you on August 22, 2011, at 7:30pm? On 355, you say? Going south? Well, I was going north then. Just think of that: we were so close but we didn't meet until..."

No, that would never come up.

Most likely this story of my evening with some doctors off a major road in a northern suburb will never come up, either. After living through it once, I see no need to keep it in my repertoire of stories.

It was a fine professional evening. I should stress that. But as I sat there nodding at the right times and mentally taking notes and writing follow-up emails in my head, I thought: 'This is not how I wanted to spend my night.'

But there I was, and sometimes you have to make the best of where you find yourself. You don't always get to do what you want every night.

Some nights, you have to go on an expressway and eat overpriced food.

Other nights, you get to stay home and make your own pizza dough and see what kinds of toppings you have to throw on it.

Tonight, I ate overpriced food.

But I got to see the sunset blaring boldly through the windows of the restaurant, making even the over-sized menus appear tinged with something prettier than us all.

And that sight alone made tonight worth it.


  1. Now I'm hungry for Beanos. Too bad it wasn't a Beanos off the expressway. Which leads me to wonder... where did you eat?

  2. I've just decided to play that game with my future husband throughout our marriage. It'll be a bit like The Time Traveler's Wife, so I'm sure it'll be romantic and he'll love it.

  3. I know, Jill! Beano's is just so good. Actually, anywhere in Beaver Creek is good, as you well know :)

    We were at a J. Alexander's. I've never been to one before, but I've heard pretty okay things about them. However, slow service and very dry mashed potatoes made me rank it pretty low on my "favorite places I've eaten list"!



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