Our extended family meets only twice a year, in the summer and during the winter around the holiday season. Since the meetings are somewhat infrequent, we try to make the most of it, especially for the kids. Haru loves her second cousins, especially Karin. But with all of our busy schedules, unfortunately we can only meet at those times, with the occasional exceptions when we share the summer house together like we did last year. Haru also has 3 other second cousins, whom she rarely sees these days. One is a boy, who’s in junior high school now, so is considerably older than the rest of the kids, hence probably can’t be bothered entertaining little kids. The other two are twin girls, who unfortunately due to internal family issues, we probably will never see again ….yeah …really unfortunate ….sigh.
At any rate, I always treasure these moments because I know I have a lot of fond moments of the my own childhood spent in Japan with my cousins. But since my childhood took place in the era of print (not digital) photography, when film, development, and print costs were expensive, I don’t have too many photos of us as kids. This is why I always carry at least one if not two or three cameras with me at all times. I often get criticism (especially from both my wife and Haru) that I take way too many pictures (sometimes in the thousands for a single event). But I think when Haru is much older, she will appreciate the efforts I have gone through to photograph, video tape, and write about her childhood. At least that’s what I hope.
Over the weekend, we visited my grandmother’s house like we always do when my mother is in town. We usually make it an effort to tell everyone beforehand that we’re going so that the kids can get together and play. And of course, it makes for great opportunity take pictures as well. One of the advantages (if any) on getting together so infrequently, is that we can see how much Haru has grown in comparison with her second cousins. Haru, being the youngest of all of the kids, had always been the smallest. Around the same time last year, Haru was just past Karin’s shoulders. Up until that point, Haru and Karin had been growing at about the same pace, so Karin was always a few inches taller Haru. However, this year, it seems that Haru has all but caught up to Karin. She was only about a half an inch shorter than Karin. All kids grow differently and at different paces, so there is no telling how this is going to end up. But at the rate that Haru eats these days (which is a lot…I mean A LOT), she might overtake Karin by the time the winter holidays roll around.
When we all get together, we usually all go out for dinner together (or order pizza, which makes life a bit easier). The issue with all of us going out to dinner is that most restaurants in the area have a hard time seating all of us. So often times we would have to hop around until we can find a place that can seat 13 people (preferably at the same table), serves food that appeals to small kids and adults (so McDonald’s is OUT), at a reasonable price (my grandmother usually flips the bill, so we don’t want to bankrupt her), and can do this all WITHOUT a reservation. Yes, this is a tall order, and a tall order that many restaurants could not fill.
We hopped around to no less than four different restaurants. At the first restaurant, we got to the point where we were all seated at our table, but then found nothing on the menu was too appealing, so we left. Second restaurant, we got up to the restaurant where there was a large aquarium, where the kids had gathered and admired the fish swimming around. As we were looking at and admiring the fish, someone decided we should find something else. The kids were disappointed because they liked the fish and wanted to stay. We get to the third restaurant where a staff outside of the restaurant door assured us that they had seats, the food was good, and that we would get a 20% discount off the bill. Hmm…sounded fishy, but at this point, who cares… let us in!!!
All 13 of us were seated at table that was clearly for no more than 7 or 8 people at the most. We were all crammed together and there was no way we would be able to comfortably eat our food (assuming that food for a party of 13 could even fit on a table made for 8). The table next to our table was empty, so we asked is we could use both tables. Staffer had to get approval for some reason, which I thought was silly. But when we threatened to leave, all of a sudden it was okay.
We all rattled off what we wanted to the server, who was frantically trying to keep up with the verbal shout outs of random menu items that he was suppose to be inputting into his little order taking device thingy. I figured that there was no way he was getting this order right, but it didn’t matter, we could sort it out later. After having gone to two other restaurants earlier and walking around looking for a place that met our requirements, we were all pretty hungry and just wanted to get the order in. At this point we would have probably have eaten anything, regardless of whether we ordered it or not.
20 long minutes later, we had already gone through 2 rounds of soft drinks and nothing of real substance had arrived yet; just the appetizers and side menu items. Out of hunger, we all started ordering more soft drinks and smaller and simpler food items in the hopes that they might be able to prepare and deliver them more quickly.
Another 30 long miserable minutes later, we were on our fourth or fifth round of drinks, and still nursing a now stale and cold plate of appetizers. My mother and aunt were really getting impatient and somewhat angry, which I thought was interesting. Usually in situations such as this, I would be the first to lose my patience and start barking at the restaurant staffers for better service. Perhaps it was because I was kind of already full from drinking four classes of orange juice that I hadn’t reached my tipping point yet. The same couldn’t been said about the ranting duo, who were really digging into the server, and demanded that our food be served soon. The server frantically went back and forth to the kitchen, but had yet to produce any of the food that we had ordered, just more drinks.
Eventually, my mother lost and demanded the check. If there was any time when I needed a bag a popcorn, this was the time, because this was a pretty good show. She totally tore the server apart at this point, telling him that he had no right pulling us in without having the ability to serve us in a more timely manners, and went on to tell him off over and over again about how horrible the service was for making us wait over an hour for our food. The server apologized profusely for the diabolical service and handed us the check. Now, this is where it got even more interesting. Almost none of our food was served, so naturally it should have been subtracted from our check. We even reminded the server before he served us the check that we would NOT be paying for anything that didn’t arrive. He agreed… naturally. But when we got our check, NOTHING was subtracted. As a matter of fact, not only was nothing subtracted, all of the items that we had ordered, that I initially suspected had not been properly taken, was surprisingly on the check! Wow, the server got our order right, so there was no real excuse for the lateness.
As the server looked on, we passed around the check to verify what items that should not be on the check. We all scoffed and laughed at how he had the nerve to charge us for something that was never served. We rattled off all of the stuff that was never delivered in a rapid fire session back at the server, who at this point looked like he was having the worse day of his entire existence as he crossed off the items of the check. After we were satisfied that my grandmother was not going to be paying for something we didn’t eat, the server went away briefly and came back with a calculator and began removing items off our bill, as my mother hovered over him to make sure he got it right. And as final kick to the groin, my mother then said, “don’t forget the 20% discount you promised us.” The staffer barely looked up, and simply responded OK.
After the staffer recalculated the bill, the final price came to an unbelievable $200+ (with the 20% discount). This isn’t $200 for food, but $200+ worth of appetizers and soft drinks. We all groaned and voiced our grievances loudly calling the place a complete rip off right in front of the server and within ear shot of other staff and customers. We were obviously gaining some attention by the other onlooking staff at this point. My mother added a final stab to the chest by saying, “is this the way this restaurant does business? Really shameful!” I don’t blame her anger at all. As a mater of fact, I don’t think I would have been so graceful and calm. I think if it were me, I would have had the restaurant manager or owner involved and demanded that they knock off another $100. Everyone who knows me well, knows that when I am dissatisfied about something, or when some kind of injustice is forced upon me, I will let EVERYONE know about it. I never knew where I got this trait from. I figured that perhaps I may have inherited this trait from my father, whom I never really knew too well, or perhaps I am just a grumpy person by nature. But now I know where it comes from. It’s a Hayashi-side trait.
The 13 of us, some of us still very hungry, some full from overpriced poor quality soft drinks and appetizers, finally found a nice place where we could get good prompt service, decent food, and reasonable price. We went to family restaurant (similar to that of Denny’s). Yeah, it wasn’t fancy or even nice, but it got the job done. We should have went there in the first place, because at the end of the day, the kids don’t care were we go as long as we are all together and having fun. In fact, I think the family restaurant was perfect because they have the kid’s menu and free drink bar. Next time, we know.