The Chipped Plate Defense

I went to dinner at an Italian restaurant Saturday night.   A sign at the door said, “We’re extremely understaffed, limited seating.  Please be patient.”  However, the restaurant was basically empty so I went in anyway. 

An Uber eats driver sat at an untended bar, a family of four sat at a table near the kitchen and a teenage couple occupied a booth.  I stood at the entrance for a few minutes, wondering if this was a sign of things to come.

The hostess approached me and asked in a lawyerly tone if she could help me. I said that I’d like to eat here.  She was carrying an oblong wooden full of handmade pastas for display purposes only.   The hostess told me just a minute, went to the elderly table and gave enthusiastically detailed explanations about which sauces to pair with penne, linguine and ravioli. 

After ten minutes, I thought to myself, “This doesn’t bode well.”

The hostess seated me at a table next to the teenagers.  She presented a menu the way a bailiff holds a Bible when swearing in a witness.  “Do you solemnly swear not to order off the menu?”  The food runner brought a basket of ciabatta rolls, a bowl of olive oil and a starter plate.  The first thing I noticed was that the plate had a prominent chip along the edge.

Plate with a chipped edge.

For most people, a chipped plate in a casual Italian trattoria is no big deal.  Empathetic restaurant reviewers might overlook the ding as “rustic” or “quaint.”  Moreover, foodies who buy coffee table cookbooks might say the chipped plate evokes memories of “dining on linguine con vongole near the Amalfi coast.”  

However, the Feng Shui system of harmonizing people with their environment doesn’t share these sentiments.  A chipped plate isn’t homey, charming, or Instagram-worthy.  A chipped plate is bad luck.  Not bad luck in the sense of a flat tire on the way to a job interview or a seagull flying in and snatching your pizza mid-bite.  In Feng Shui, eating off a chipped plate means the diner welcomes failure and financial problems.

So, I began to wonder if I would welcome failure in a masochistic “Hit me with your best shot” kind of way.  Moreover, I thought that I might be opening the door to any number of financial misfortunes.  I pushed the plate aside and ate the bread straight from the basket.

The chipped plate still fresh in my mind, I thought the bad luck had commenced when the food arrived.  I ordered spinach fettuccine with carbonara sauce.  However, the kitchen made tagliatelle instead of linguine.  Tagliatelle means “cut” in Italian.  Would I become cut off from my money?

By now, the restaurant had filled up with groups of high school girls eating “fancy,” young couples who had hired babysitters and mother/daughter merlot nights.  The noise level in the restaurant had reached the level where diners had to raise their voices but didn’t need hand gestures to communicate. 

And, I was eating in a booth alone.  I felt the existential dread of dining solo in a crowded restaurant, that feeling of everybody silently pitying the guy who eats unaccompanied.

Despite being understaffed, the hostess remained upbeat.  She checked on me throughout the meal, speaking with the boisterously optimistic tone of a TV prosecutor questioning a forensic accountant.

Setting the food on the table, she asked before I tasted, “Is it PERFECT?”  Bringing dessert, just one word, “DELICIOUS?”  When the bill came, I paid with a debit card. 

The hostess came back with the card and receipts.  Her tone shifted from optimistic prosecutor to peppy defense counsel cross-examining a shaky witness.  “Have you had TROUBLE with your CHIP?  Your CARD was DECLINED.” 

The existential dread kicked into high gear.  Alone in a crowded restaurant, getting called out for a declined card. The Feng Shui prophecy had come true.  Eating from a chipped plate means financial trouble.   I had been cut off from my money.

Then, my phone dinged.  A text message from the bank asking if I had used my card at this restaurant.

Text message from bank asking about card activity.

I replied, “Yes.”  I showed the message to the hostess and her to run the card again. 

The hostess returned, saying the falling tone of an attorney withdrawing an objection, “We’ve been having trouble with our chip reader.  Sorry about the confusion.  Hope everything else was PERFECT.”

Then, I remembered a loophole in the Feng Shui system.  Eating from a chipped plate means financial trouble.  I never ate from the plate in question.  So, no big deal.  Case closed.

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