Monday, September 7, 2009

Self-Serve Restaurant?

Our Labor Day family vacation was one of the best. We spent four days in the sierras at my grandparents cabin where many of my best childhood memories were created. We went to the lake, visited an old gold mining town, and ate at a great greasy burger joint. (Check Patty's Facebook page to see the photos.) Childhood memories are wonderful and as my children store up their own, it occurred to me that parents see family vacations with an entirely different lens. Patty and I banked all kinds of sweet memories of our kids playing on a hammock, throwing rocks into the lake, mining for gold, and countless images of cuteness. However, there was one event that the kids will probably never remember but will go down as one of the weirdest dining experiences we've had in a long time.

On our way out of the mountains and slightly off the beaten path we found ourselves in a small town called Copperopolis. Thanks to suggestions from yelp.com and directions from our navigation system we ventured to a Mexican restaurant called "Mexico Lindo". It seemed that this was a great place to stop since there were quite a few people eating their food with smiles on their faces. We promptly got our table, chips, salsa, and placed our order rather quickly. Then we waited. And waited. And waited for a really long time. It occurred to us in our waiting that there was only one waitress who was working her tail off. We were not mad or anything. We were just running out of ideas to keep the kids occupied. More people streamed in and just like heavy traffic heading for a bottleneck, the waiting increased all the more. Then we saw things happen that we'd never seen before: customers slowly started getting up and serving themselves! One guy got up and went behind the counter to refill his Coke. A lady walked over to get herself more napkins and another dude grabbed some Tapatio from another table. These things might not seem like a big deal but they paved the way for the best part. A patron got up and started busing tables, serving drinks and chips, and doing the dishes! She actually came over to our table and asked us if we needed anything while we waited for our food. I said, "No, but do you work here on other days?" She said, "No." Well, folks, this opened up a world of possibilities. A self-service restaurant? How awesome is that?! If you need something and don't want to wait you just get up and get it yourself. So I got up and gave myself a fresh pour of orange Slice and poked around in the kitchen. The best part was the waitress was happy to let me! Finally our food came. It was ok.

On our way out we all used the bathroom. No toilet paper in the ladies room and no paper towels in the mens room. I couldn't kick the poor woman while she was down so I went over and told the "woman of initiation" of the lacking paper products. She said she'd get right on it. Now those are some great memories.

And for the record, Copperopolis has the nicest people on the planet. Nobody got upset at any of this.