Nikke and I were out and about looking for a place to have a bite to eat before a play-date. It was around 3:30 pm, after the lunch rush, but before dinner. Perfect timing so I thought. For once I didn't struggle with indecision. I had a taste for Pad Thai and decided on a cute little place in the South Loop I'd been wanting to try, Opart Thai House. I stopped at a market next door to pick up a banana for little mama, a perfect pairing for her sweet potato puff snacks I already had stashed in my diaper bag. My little sweetheart was in a great mood and seemed happy about our outing. We walked into the restaurant, both smiling. As I glanced around the dining room I assessed it as casual, somewhere between your neighborhood Chinese greasy spoon and Benihana. The dining area was spacious, but far from crowded. There was easily room for 50 to 60 guests, though only 8 were currently eating. I approached the hostess desk and was met by a tall, thin Asian woman dressed as a server. "Who many?" she asked. "Just us", I replied gesturing between the baby and I. She led us to a small two-top table in the farthest corner of the restaurant. Sharing the space were trays of dirty dishes, a trash can, stacks of menus, and an emergency exit door. I'm thinking, "No Ma'am", but I say "Is is possible for us to sit over there?" I pointed to a sunlight drenched area by a big window. The waitress looked at me square in the face and says, "No!", loudly with some bass in her voice. Maintaining my composure while balancing my 20 lb baby on my hip and 5 lb diaper bag on my shoulder I ask "Why not?" This was spoken gently, politely, with no attitude at all. I assume she is going to say because that section is closed due to light waitstaff, etc. Instead she tells me, "This", pointing to the crummy dark corner, "is the kids area." Fuming, I hold my tongue. One of the three gentleman seated nearby, a police officer, responded for me, "Kids area?", he echoed in disbelief. I laugh and ask her, Right next to the garbage? That's odd." "Yes", she says, "we prefer them out the way." Mind you, the restaurant was all but empty; plenty of space to walk freely. I was done, refused the table and walked out.
As I stood outside of the establishment I was appalled at what had just taken place. I began to hastily walk toward my SUV. Honestly, I was stunned and offended. Was this some kind of "What Would You Do" experiment? Was John Quinones going to pop out with a camera crew? It stung because I felt set aside based on an assumption of the employee. Holding my daughter I was unsure what to do. That lasted about five seconds... I turned heel and walked back toward the eatery with conviction. I would NOT retreat without having my say and showing the staff person who I truly am. I crossed the threshold, toting Nikke, shoulders back, head high, still smiling. I passed a busboy and glanced around for someone in business attire that might be the manager. There was no one at the hostess podium. I scanned to my left and spotted my waitress sitting with another server, a younger woman in her 20s. They were both in front of plates with piping hot food. Perhaps this was the "service staff area" :-/ When the woman saw that I had returned, she jumped right out of her chair. The patrons looked up, half expecting me to make a scene I'm sure. "You can sit where ever you like", she said. By now of course the damage had been done and they couldn't have paid me to eat there. "No thanks", I replied matter-of-factly. Handling a situation like this with verbal confrontation is not my style. When displeased with service my Grandmother would write a gracefully, vicious letter in a heartbeat. I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. "I just came back to leave a little note with management about my experience, do you have a comment card?" She gawked at me like I was nut before ripping off a long strip of register tape. I proceeded to draft my passionate entreaty, furiously folded it and passed it to the other waitress. I asked that she make sure someone in management read my petition. I received nods of approval from the other guests, a wink from an African American woman about my Mom's age, as I exited and strolled pass the large front window. Nikke and I decided to lunch at Cafe Bionda, an Italian restaurant two doors down. Service was great and I even indulged in a Coca-Cola.