Sunday, October 23, 2005

Outdoor Restaurant Seating

Sitting outdoors at a restaurant sucks. There are worse things, I grant you. It's not the gulag. But the indoor seating is just indisputably better. Don't argue with me. It's true.

I can see if there's a) no wind, b) no glare from the sun, c) no frequent passing car exhaust fumes, d) a high-70s temperature, e) no insects, f) seating that's comparably comfortable to the indoor seating (i.e. not just metal chairs), and g) no annoying ambient noise, then yes, okay - you have a case for eating outside. But, in the 99% of the time when these ideal conditions won't exist, don't give me the "It's suuuuuuch a beaaaaauuutiful day.... Wouldn't you rather be outdoors?" No. No I wouldn't rather be outdoors. Is there something wrong with that?

See, that's the thing about these people who always want the outdoor table. I'm not allowed to have an indoor-preference. There's this presumption with them that they are in sole possession of the one acceptable preference: eating outside - and anyone who disagrees with them is seriously wrong in the head, and/or is maliciously out to spoil their good time.

I don't get it. It's just not the case that outdoors is always better. "Oh Harold, it's such a beautiful day - let's take a shit outside!" There's this mindset that, I don't know, all indoor activities and indoor living is some kind of tragic compromise, that outdoors is man's natural state. That any experience or task or activity is nicer if it can be done outside. In my opinion it's just the opposite. I think the entire history of human civilization and human endeavor has been one long quest to get indoors. Not to discover truth and God and purpose, but to be able to say "Screw this shit, I'm going inside."

Eating in particular is something that's especially well suited for the indoors. There's just too much little stuff that can get on your nerves at an outdoor table. That glare. Man, the glare. Notice how the person who proposes the outdoor seating always chooses the seat facing away from the glare. They should be obligated to sit into the glare. That should be the price. I mean there's just this unspoken covenant that you can't talk about the glare. That you should just suck it up and be a man. Have you ever tried to eat a plate of pasta when the sun is low in the afternoon sky, square with your shoulders, aimed directly at your face? Do it right now. Go outside and stare at the sun and try to get hungry. It just doesn't work.

And the wind. Ever had to use the condiments or the sugar-pack bowl to weigh something down so it wouldn't blow away? Why am I doing that? Was it worth it to sit out here?

Very occasionally, the outdoor seating is nice. You're on a Caribbean island. It's sunset, there's a terrace overlooking the ocean. The air is fragrant and warm and you can hear the surf. Bring on the sirloin and the twice baked potato. But street level dining at a downtown Chilis? Ever listen up close to a braking bus as it approaches the red light? The ear-splitting whine followed by the high-decibel chugging of the idling carriage? There's a nice sequence of sounds and smells. Oh but I forgot - it's suuuuch a beeauuutiful day.

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