From Hero to Zero – Great Dining Debacles

It seemed so innocent.  A simple email arrived in my inbox without warning or fanfare.  Little did I know that it was a veritable poison pill whose sole purpose was to heap shame and ignominy on me like I was a nature strip and they were seeking to dispose of their hard rubbish after two years of lockdowns.  Put simply, it was a lot.  And to think, it started with a dinner at a swanky Melbourne restaurant.

I suffer a severe form of imposter syndrome.  In fact, my condition is so acute that I feel like a fraud even having imposter syndrome.  It means that when I go out to a fancy-pants restaurant for a special occasion, I can never quite get over the feeling that I don’t belong there and that all the staff and the other patrons know it too.  I don’t know whether it’s because I lack experience or because I always insist on wearing fly fishing wader pants when I eat out since it’s so much easier to mop up the inevitable spillage; I just never really fit in.

Like any good imposter, I like to do my best.  When ordering from the menu, I always try to pronounce the words if not correctly then, at least, convincingly.  In this case, the menu was in Italian (except for the word ‘menu’ itself which is of French origin) and I was determined to do it justice.  But before I knew it, my lips were tripping over syllables and consonants resulting in the kind of heinous alphabet soup that, for sure, what not featured on the menu.  To seem even more genuine, there may also have been hand gestures on my part, which I now concede were regrettable.

But despite the fact that I was something of a fraud, we had a really tremendous night.  The food was exquisite and there was something quite glorious about the very fact of being in a restaurant at all.  We had a wonderful time, and spilled out into the street, happy and content.  Then the email arrived.

The email came from the fancy restaurant.  It included a heart-warming message, thanking us for dining with them and hoping that we enjoyed our recent dining experience.  Then they sunk the boot in.  The email went on to say, ‘You’ve just earned 0 points’.  The zero was bolded just to drive the point home.  Granted, I had no idea when I went there that by chowing down on their food, there were points up for grabs, but now that I do, I really want some.  I’m even prepared to return the bread in exchange for points, if that helps.  But bread or no bread, it seems our attendance wasn’t enough to render us ‘point worthy’.

It was strange, I thought.  On the one hand, they were emailing me to thank us for dining at their restaurant whilst, at the same time, refusing to recognize us by giving us zero points.  My first instinct was to demand answers.  But then I paused and thought better of it.  Perhaps, I reasoned, it was better not to know why I’d been denied points.

I could imagine it – me, pleading my case in a lengthy email and them, in an equally loquacious reply, revealing the depravity that led to me having my points withheld.  ‘Sorry sir’, the response would begin.  ‘We’ve recently learned that two days after you dined at our high-end restaurant, you purchased a three-piece feed from something called “KFC” and, as a result, you have been disqualified.  Goodbye.’ 

It could have been so much worse.  If they’d been aware of the number of times I’ve devoured an entire box of barbecue shapes on a Friday night and called that ‘dinner’, I doubt I’d have ever been permitted to set foot in the joint to begin with.  I’d have been removed forcibly if they’d known how often I’d ordered an ‘Aussie’ from the pizzeria because I truly, genuinely believe that egg and shredded ham belong together.  The less said about all the times as a kid (and, also, possibly not as a kid) I ate Nutella from the jar using only my finger, the better.  Forget points.  Had they known about the ‘Nutella fiasco’, I’d have been banned for life.

Then, unbelievably, it got worse.  This was not the first time we’d gone to this very fancy Melbourne restaurant.  In fact, we’d gone there almost exactly twelve months earlier to celebrate the same very important occasion.  This, I feel, makes us regulars.  But despite this, having now told me that my attendance had just earned me ‘zero’ points, the email went on to say that this would be added to my current balance of  ‘zero points’. 

Not only were they refusing to recognize that I’d been there this week, they were now asserting that I’d never been there.

Ultimately, I feel the fault may be mine.  When they served us the artisan bread, I should not have sent back the butter and demand a tub of ‘Flora’ instead.  When the scallops arrived, I should have restrained myself from requesting a potato cake.  And when my exquisite spaghetti marinara appeared, I should not have demanded a bottle of White Crow tomato sauce.  Be that as it may, I regret nothing.  Eating out is not just a matter of ‘what’ or ‘where’ but also ‘who’.  And in terms of the ‘who’, I couldn’t have been happier.  That, after all, is what counts.  And with that said, I feel I’ve made my (zero) points.