a quick lunch but with minor gaps in service

I took the baby on a late morning walk today with the thought of getting a snack at the local Starbucks and maybe – if the baby was happy in her carrier – to get milk at the grocery store, but the closer we got to Starbucks, the less appealing the idea of coffee became. So, I walked a little further to the Chinese plaza to get dim sum, rationalizing that the baby had some snacks and that I could quickly pick something to eat off the cart, but I have to admit that I was thinking with my belly.

We arrive at the restaurant which is nearly empty, and I don’t think about it until after lunch is over, but no one asks me, even though I have a 20 lb baby strapped to my chest and there are busboys and wait staff standing idly by, if I need a high chair – in fact, no one pays any attention to me at all – so I get it myself. I grab the chair on the top of the stack in the back hallway only to find out, once the baby in is the chair, that it has no seat restraints. Everyone’s wandered off at this point except for a single, wandering dim sum cart, and the other high chairs are too far for me to leave the baby at the table. Baby is out of the carrier, sitting down, happily nibbling on crackers. We use the high chair we have.

We make it through lunch in a rather cheerful mood and baby behaves like a little lady, focusing on getting the food into her mouth although she does drop a little rice. None of the dim sum servers seem to want to pause at our table even though they all have to walk by it, but I get shu mai and the baby likes her rice and we have a nice time.

Then the restaurant gets busier and the baby gets excited. She scrambles out of her high chair, standing on the seat base, so she can hop out and join two grade school boys a few tables away. I grab her and keep her on my lap because there are carts passing by so she starts to whine and cry a little. The table next to us briefly notes the source of the cry and moves on with their meal, but I don’t want the baby to escalate. I can’t let her go because the cart traffic is busy at that moment and I can’t leave the table because I don’t have the bill and I need to collect my belongings. I flag down a steward for the bill.

The steward brings the  bill and thankfully a to-go box but leaves before I can ask for help or offer the credit card held ready in my hand.

I have a crying, wriggling baby in my arms, dim sum carts moving around the table, a to-go box to be filled, and my baby carrier and phone to pick up as well as the bill to pay. I have the credit card in my hand still. What happens next? During that moment, three carts come to a stand still by my table with their servers standing idly because of a bottleneck at one of the other tables.  This means three carts surrounding the table and three servers shaking their heads at the rice which baby dropped on the floor. Another wait staff member comes to clear off my table, shake her head at the floor, and apparently stare at me. The to-go box lies empty next to a plate piled high with fried rice. No one is willing to help slide the rice off the plate into the empty to-go box, take the credit card, or even flag the steward to come back for the card so I can pay.

It’s only a fleeting moment but a familiar one in which I need an extra hand or extra eyes, and I note the wait staff want me gone but that they don’t want to help. I pay the bill with cash, put the baby down to sweep the fried rice into the to go box, quickly gather my belongings, grab a wrapper from baby’s crackers that fell to the floor, and scoop the baby – now very happy again and eager to run around the tables – into my arms. I strap her into the carrier and we’re on our way – but before we’ve even left the table, one of the servers who had been watching me opens the bill to check the money and count the tip.

Usually, I feel a little guilty when the baby leaves any mess on the floor and this is reflected in a bigger tip. I also feel guilty on those unlucky occasions when I don’t have enough cash to leave a decent tip.

Tip was only a dollar. No guilt today.

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