My brother needed to be picked up for the end of his commute. He lives barely a mile from the railroad station, but usually his wife picks him up, and she was off at a sales conference. So Dad, with me in tow, not to mention the passenger seat, went up to see him, talk a while, and go out to eat. After we found him he spent a while trying to talk with a friend of his, who's dating our sister, to see if they wanted to join us to eat. My sister's vegetarian, which can complicate choices of where to go, but my brother and his friend ended up in a game of Blackberry tag, with the friend asking repeatedly where they would go, and when, and being answered that it depended whether they were coming along, and had no set time. Eventually (we think) they compromised, and only the friend came along.
We went to a Mexican restaurant, while pondering the strange disappearance of the Chi-Chis franchise. (My brother had heard of a family getting sick eating the food there, but one incident hardly seems like enough to close a multi-state franchise.) When we got to this other restaurant, we explained that we wanted a table for four, even though there were only three present. We assumed they were used to the notion of one or more members of a party arriving later than the rest. We were wrong. They asked my brother, ``Table for three,'' and were told we wanted four. A few minutes later they asked my father if we needed a table for three. A few minutes past that they asked me if we wanted a table for three. Finally they agreed to let us go into the dining area and take a table, which had four seats, but they only put out appetizer plates and napkin bundles for three, and they wanted our drink and appetizer orders.
Eventually my brother's friend did arrive, and then we ordered appetizers and meals (they took my brother's appetizer order as his entree order, initially, and we had to call the waitress back). They didn't give the friend a plate but he made do through the appetizer, and only insisted on knives and forks for the entree. They actually came out with two napkin bundles for that, leading us to speculate that the problem wasn't that they didn't handle parties arriving in several groups, but rather that they don't handle groups of four. Three or five they can process, though.
Reinforcing the idea that ``four'' is the problem is they seemed to lose our order altogether for the better part of an hour. They apologized a couple times and said they'd be back to explain, but never did. The first time they tried serving us, in fact, they had the orders for a table a couple places down with a similar troublesome four people in it. Eventually they did serve my brother his chicken chimichanga and me the beef chimichanga, but they got our bean orders mixed up. So after checking the insides of the chimichangas we carefully swapped those and traded plates, in time for the waitress to ask if everything was all right. We claimed it was, since otherwise seemed to be too dangerous.
Trivia: Manchester, England, had two confectioner's shops in 1772. It had seven by 1800 and forty-one by 1830. Source: Sweets: A History of Temptation, Tim Richardson.
Currently Reading: Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation, Peter L Bernstein.