That Friday was a hard day at work. I had no breakfast, lunch was minimal, and I was to meet my concert date at 7:00. I wanted, no, needed, some comfort food, some soul food, something to restore my spirits after a long day, and a long week.
I remembered the restaurant in Yorkville which would fit the bill. It was low-key, had booths to slide into, and just the right menu for my mood. I left work and hastened there for a quiet dinner by myself. Parking was easy, it was early and, when I entered, there was no one there but a group of young men by the door. The waiter promptly met me with a menu, and showed me to a booth. I was so tired that I readily decided what I wanted and, in somewhat of a daze, spent the next few minutes browsing in a brochure I had picked up on the street.
When I looked up, one waiter was on the telephone, another behind the counter. I waited. The telephone talker continued his conversation, the other continued whatever he was doing. I waited. The telephone talker hung up, and turned his attention to his coworker. I waited. Then I started twiddling my thumbs. How long did I wait? It seemed like forever.
Eventually, one of them came over to where I was sitting. I blithered out something about how it would have been nice to have had some service ten minutes earlier. The waiter pulled himself up to his full five foot ten, and leaned across the back of the booth opposite me. He put on his most supercilious smirk, and sneered across to me: “Since your evening has started so badly, perhaps you’d better leave.”
I was shocked. I gathered up my things and left. As I did so, I sensed that the waiter had joined the fellows by the door in a hearty laugh, but maybe I was just being paranoid. I literally ran from the restaurant, and found another where the service was prompt and friendly, but the food less soulful than what I had wanted. In all my years in Toronto, or anywhere for that matter, I had never, ever, received such treatment.
I thought about how I would get even. My first response was to call a friend of a friend, the restaurant critic Joanne Kates. Then I thought of sending a letter to the owner on my professional letterhead. As I was skiing at Whistler the next week, I considered sending a fax from there, pretending I was a jet-setter. I told all my friends. One particularly active and talented friend, who is somewhat older than I, smiled knowingly and said, “It happens all the time. Single older women are invisible.” This was circa 1996; I wonder if that is still the case. Ultimately I did nothing about it. I did decide, however, that someday I would take up writing.