Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ben & Jack's Steakhouse for a surreal dinner

I ate at Ben & Jack's Steakhouse tonight in what was the most surreal dinner I have attended in my life. It was a medical seminar attended by Manhattan physicians and scientists. They seemed like they were in a scripted TV situation comedy, only this was a seminar with a distinguished speaker. ... The side dishes were served family style. A Korean physician to my left, Dr. Lee, wouldn't give up her used salad plate when the waiter came, despite him trying to take it twice. She wore bright blue eye shadow, the way women wore makeup in the 1970s. I soon found out why she needed it, she piled all the food onto her plates from the dishes of potato and spinach that were circulating. Since she was on my left, no food was coming from that direction, and her plate was now overflowing with the delicious pan fried potatoes with sautéed onions. And in the middle of the seminar during the discussion of extrapyramidal symptoms caused by neuroleptics, she screamed at an attendee across from her for asking a question of the speaker: "You do this all the time with the questions, why can't you just be quiet. You are so impatient, always with the questions." The speaker said that she welcomed questions, and the reason she was there was to answer any questions we had. Lee again said in a bellowing voice that brought an instant hush to the room: "Why does she have to ask questions, why can't she wait till the end." This time the speaker took a long sip from her wine glass, looked around the room, let out an audible sigh.

Since no side dishes were coming from my left, I concentrated on my right. The situation wasn't much better, a mother-daughter pair of Russian physicians were there. The older one took her steak and put in a plastic bag she brought and stuffed it into her pocket book. My steak came and was served a special way. They tilt the plate so the fat and juices run to the edge and then move the meat to your plate. The Russian woman to my right shouted out: "Why does he get such service, who is he ... Tsar?" Again this is mid seminar on a serious topic for continuing education credits.The speaker was about half a meter away, we were at the end of the table and the projection screen was less than a meter away. Then she stuck her fork into my meat on my plate and said: "Let me try Tsar's food" and she absconded with a chunk of my sirloin. About 5 minutes later she shouted as loud as she could to no one in particular, but hoping a waiter would hear her: "We need potatoes, no more potatoes here. Everyone else have potatoes but we have none." The speaker stopped and looked for her wine glass but it was already empty. She stared straight ahead at the wall, and was biting her lip. She started to talk again but was silenced by the apparatchik on my right: "I need potato, everyone else have potato. I want potato." This time it was directed at the waiter in charge of drinks, he gave her the finger to the lips, the universal sign to be quiet, and she stopped shouting.

I looked to my left and that woman, Dr. Lee, as the man to her left called her, was taking the bottle of steak sauce and putting it into her pocketbook. She was also moving all the food she had hoarded into a takeout container they had given her.

At least there was dessert to look forward to since I wasn't getting any creamed spinach or potatoes. Only dessert was a worse nightmare. Like a nightmare inside a nightmare, only there was no Leonardo DiCaprio to shock me out of it like in the movie Inception. Dr. Lee was taking the entire plate of family style desserts and loading them into a second takeout container, two pieces of chocolate cheesecake and a piece of apple strudel and a piece of regular cheesecake and a wad of whipped cream designed for eight people to share. To my right my only hope was that the Russians would feel pity for me. They took the chocolate cheesecakes and all the whipped cream. All of it. That left the strudel for me, but no whipped cream. They also had a strategy for seconds, they said they didn't get any dessert to the waiter, who looked down at their used dessert plates and just said "uh-huh". As I was leaving he was bringing them one more helping to share.

As I was leaving I went up to the speaker and apologized. She had gotten her glass of wine refilled. I said: "That was the rudest audience I have every seen, you were amazingly patient." All she could say was "No shit!"