142. Hold the Ketchup

Sunday March 28 2021

It felt a bit like vertigo when we entered a restaurant today, with the people, noise, and the too-warm air that heralded our arrival. I was hit with a micro-second of disorientation until I could process this chaos. A reminder that I really don’t get out much, or at least other than the familiar venues of office and grocery. Over the past year, we simply stopped going out to restaurants like we used to.

There was nothing happening inside that wasn’t normal. It was just a small burger place designed to be a noise factory so the diners can have a full sensory experience. You have to nearly shout to be heard which results in everyone trying to be the loudest voice. I’ve just forgotten what Normal was, I guess. It’s been awhile.

Our burgers and fries are delivered to our table in a white paper bag, even though we ordered our meals for “here.” It’s then I notice there are no condiment bottles or napkins on the table. Everything is presumably in the bag. Look, I’m not a fancy girl, but I miss certain amenities when dining out, even if it’s salt and pepper shakers that I never use. I wonder when we’ll ever see a communal ketchup bottle on a restaurant table again. Or if we should even want to.

Several seating areas are blocked from use, the best that can be done for social distancing at this small restaurant. Yet the room feels overfull and crowded.

“Do you want to take this to the car to eat?” I ask my husband.

“I’m already sitting down,” he said.

Well, he’s not wrong, but there were other responses I expected. Like it’s 45 degrees outside or that I’ll just get ketchup on the upholstery again. So nothing to do but tuck into my Baja Burger and make the best of it.

I suppose it’s a positive sign that people are getting out and supporting the restaurant industry. And really, besides the face masks and “stay 6 feet apart” floor stickers, there’s not much else in the public venues to remind us there’s a pandemic still in play. The grocery is crowded again, sports are starting back up, and my commute to work is accompanied by aggressive drivers who need to plan their mornings better if they really need to go that fast.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 14.3 percent of the US population has been fully vaccinated as of March 25 2021. That’s 47,419,832 Americans, with 1,722,559 of that number being Ohioans. We’re on our way to building that elusive and controversial herd immunity by developing robust anti-bodies among the healthy to protect those who, for health reasons, cannot receive the coronavirus vaccine.

I know there are plenty of folk out there who are flat out against the vaccine and they all have their reasons and I don’t care to hear what those reasons are even though I see this hot mess as I scroll through my Facebook feed every effin’ day. In the US, we have the liberty to be educated and to make our own choices in this matter. I wouldn’t want this to ever change. And that’s all I have to say about that.

I don’t see the two of us changing up how we’ve been managing our meals anytime soon. To be honest, dining out just doesn’t have the magic it once did. For now, I’ll continue with preparing a meal each evening, occasionally providing financial support to Door Dash when I’m jonesing for a Marion’s Pizza. And you know, I don’t mind cooking most of the time. The quiet process of culinary creativity can be cathartic after a chaotic day.

I don’t know; should I rewrite that last sentence? “The quiet process of culinary creativity can be cathartic after a chaotic day.” It sounds like a speech therapy exercise, doesn’t it?

Naw, say it out loud, but with a British accent. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Yep, now it sounds right.

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