When Kamryn wanted to drink her chocolate milk out of a long-stemmed wine glass, our only concern was how delicate it was. Sheís a rambunctious 4-year-old who usually drinks from a sippy cup, but when she saw the goblet on the table, she wanted to be a big girl.
Without a second thought, we poured her chocolate milk into one of the glasses and told her to be careful, not knowing she was about to be accused of breaking the law.
It was my birthday, and we went to Olive Garden, the Italian restaurant with the bottomless salad bowl. Kaye and I were enjoying our salads when the manager came over, leaned down close to my wife, and warned her about Kamryn using the wine glass.
He was serious. Kaye didn't know what to say, but after he left she told me what he said and suddenly my birthday wasn't happy anymore.
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When our entrees arrived before our appetizer, I was really upset. The waitress summoned the manager again and he soon found out how unhappy I was -- mainly about him embarrassing Kaye.
"The wine glasses were on the table when we sat down. We didn't ask for them," I explained.
He started talking about liquor laws and how Kamryn drinking from a wine glass could cost him his liquor license. I could almost hear the sirens outside. He said he never intended to embarrass her and offered to pay for our meals.
My face was as red as the sauce on my sausage and peppers. "That won't be necessary," I said. "We're outta here."
I stood up and tossed my napkin into my plate. The manager didn't want other diners to hear what was going on so he begged me to reconsider.
When I sat down the manager turned to walk away. Then it was Kamryn's turn to speak.
"Papa's birthday was ruined," she said. "We're outta here."
Now, I was embarrassed. I had forgotten what keen ears she has and how she absorbs everything going on around her.
Now it was my turn to apologize to her.
The manager did everything he could to appease me. He paid for our lunches, served me a birthday dessert and gave us a coupon we could use at another time. He still overreacted, I thought -- and so did I.
Now I know why. Over the past few years Olive Gardens in various parts of the country have mistakenly served alcoholic beverages to children -- including a 2-year-old who got sangria instead of orange juice.
When the local manager cited liquor laws, he was really talking about restaurant policies. I understand their concerns, but if they're serious they ought to quit putting wine glasses on the table unless a customer requests them.
Otherwise, we're outta there.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at www.twitter.com/hyattrichard.