Rock Bottom…

The absurdity of this didn’t hit me until after I was back home and saw the smiley face stamped on the back of my hand.

I was taken out to eat tonight for my recently celebrated birthday. My wife and I were meeting her mom and friend at Rock Bottom Brewery in West Des Moines. For those unfamiliar, it’s a nice, chain-style brewpub. Nothing fancy, moderately priced, and in our neck of the woods more known as a restaurant than a drinking establishment. Upon entering we were greeted by two (2) oh-so eager hosts, ready to please.

We indicated to Host #1 we were meeting two others, and my wife points over to a side booth, “there’s my mom.” We ever so slyly side-step Host #1 (and of course the whole time I’m thinking, “Yes! The mom line worked!”). Then with the tenacity of an overprotective parent, Host #2 makes his purpose known, “Are you going to be drinking?”

What?! Did I just hear that right?! We are being questioned as we come through the door if we will be drinking? Is this like the new thing at restaurants now? Since Iowa passed the no smoking law last year, has “Smoking or Non-Smoking?” been replaced with “Drinking or Driving?”, “Lush or Teetotaler?”, “Wet or Dry?”. Will we be treated differently based upon our answers? Will they attempt to seat us in a special area, or rope us off from the non-drinkers? Or maybe I broke the rules and was suppose to make my intentions clear when I came in through the door. After all, this is a brewpub, right? I was probably suppose to kick the door in and shout, “I’m here to drink!” or conversely, “I’m here to eat!” But wait, they’re not exclusive choices are they? Can I do both? Do I yell both? Does order matter?

But what if I don’t know if I’ll be drinking? Let’s pretend I didn’t decide 20 minutes into my workday today that I’d be drinking tonight. Is a proper response, “Can I see the drink menu?” or would that be snobbish? But if I say yes without looking at the menu, that’s like saying “I don’t care what you got! If it’s got alcohol in it, I’ll be drinking it!!!” That’s not the impression I want to make. Why doesn’t he start with an easier question? “So there will be four of you dining tonight, and do you like raw onions?” I can confidently answer, “No.” You see, I knew that before I even came in. I could have kicked the door down and shouted, “I don’t like raw onions!” and there would be no confusion. But this question he posed, “Are you going to be drinking?” came too fast, too soon. I haven’t sat down yet. I haven’t taken my coat off yet.

But what happens if I answer incorrectly? Or is this a trick question? “Yes, no, well, it crossed my mind.” Does that get me past this test? I can feel all the judgey eyes in the restaurant on me as he asks this fateful question. I feel like the new kid as the whole school watches to see which table I’m going to sit at during lunch. What if I sit with the preppy kids, but later want to sit with the band kids? You don’t get a do-over when you’re the new kid. Would I get one now? If I say no, go to my table and order nachos, and then really wish I had a beer, can I leave the restaurant and come back in, answer yes to Host #2, and then come back to my nachos? It’s kind of like flipping back in those choose-your-own-adventure books to pull the yellow lever instead of the black one (never pull the black one!). Oh, why isn’t there such sage advice when faced with this question: “Are you going to be drinking?”

I don’t know what it was, maybe a flashback to my college glory days, but after the instantaneous moment each one of these questions flashed across my mind I answered, “Yes, we will be drinking tonight.” And just like that, BINGO, we received smiley face stamps on the back of our hands.

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