Why is restaurant dining so popular? Think about it. We give up home cooking and the privacy of our cozy dining rooms, we drive several miles through heavy traffic and have our one and only car parked by a teenager.

Then we pay for the privilege of eating unfamiliar food cooked by a stranger in a distant kitchen. If the restaurant isn’t crowded to the point of discomfort, we begin to suspect the quality of the meals.

But here I am at Chez Manieu. I should be grateful my reservation guaranteed prompt seating. There was a crowd of people waiting at the bar. One gentleman seemed to have forgotten what he was waiting for. “After tee martoonies,” he said, “I don’t recognize my name when they announce it over the P.A. system.”

Immediate seating is one thing. Immediate service is another. As it happened, Andre arrived just minutes after I sat down, handed me a four-page menu and asked for my choices. I pleaded for more time and he reluctantly agreed to return later. That was a half hour ago.

In the meantime I’ve enjoyed the visits of the cute little tyke from the next table. He’s here now, chewing on a steak bone and drooling on my best slacks. His little airplane has crash landed in my butter dish.

“No, madam, he isn’t bothering me. I’m enjoying him. He reminds me of when I was an undisciplined little boy myself.” (That usually works.)

But where is that waiter? When he finally takes my order and eventually returns with the food, he will too often ask ,”Is everything all right?” And, with my mouth full of bouillabaisse, I will reply, “Grnxlbmff” and he will say “Bien” in that smug way of waiters and I will have deposited an oily shrimp on my new tie.

At last! Here comes Andre now to take my order, but who is that with him? Oh dear!, it looks like the teenaged parking attendent and I think that’s my mangled license plate he’s carrying!

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