Once upon a time, I got an email from a PR company inviting me to a media dinner at a new restaurant in town.
Media dinners are typically fun events, where restaurants feed bloggers and journalists the best of their offerings and hope that they feel the passion to spread the word about their great food and unique atmosphere. I like sharing about my favorite restaurants on Alabama Bloggers, so I try to attend these when I can.
And it said that I could bring a guest – even better.
I forwarded it to Chris, told him we were going to dinner in a few weeks, and moved on with life.
Somewhere between the two dates, we realized that we were using up all of our childcare options for other things, so he opted to stay with the kids, and I invited another blogger friend to go with me.
A couple of hours before the meal, she came down with a relapse of The Dreaded Rhinovirus (read: a cold) and backed out on me.
(I love her anyway.)
So I arrived alone at the restaurant 15 minutes early. And noted that they were quite crowded.
Strange…usually these type of dinners were private events.
There was one journalistic-looking girl standing outside and looking a bit confused and desperate to recognize another of her sort.
I made welcoming eye contact a couple of times as I walked in, but she never reached out to me, so I let it go.
I walked up, and a hostessish girl handed me a menu and welcomed me. I told her that I was there for the media dinner – where should I go?
“Hm… I don’t know about that party. Did you guys have reservations?”
“Well, you invited us, so…”
“Let me go ask my manager.”
She left…then she came back a minute later, alone.
“Hey! So My manager doesn’t know anything about this group. Are you sure you made reservations?”
“No. I didn’t make reservations. I wasn’t planning on coming here tonight – it was your restaurant who invited me. It was supposed to be a media dinner?”
“Oh. That’s what that other girl out there said, too. Strange. I’ll go GET my manager.”
She left again…and she came back with a harried manager.
“Hi! I just got back in town today and I have no idea what is going on. What group did you say you were with?”
“I’m not with a group, per say. I got an email from your PR company or parent company or someone official, and they invited me to dinner to try out your new restaurant.”
“How many people were invited to this dinner?”
“I really have no idea. I just got my copy of the email.”
“No one has told me anything about this. Do you know the person’s name that invited you?”
I felt shifty as she clearly didn’t believe my story.
“No – I got the email weeks ago…I’ll see if I can find it.”
“That would be great.”
She ran off to try and track down our mystery inviter while I searched my email inbox to no avail – “weeks” in my email inbox is at least two and a half millennia in real time. Hostessish girl went and got the other journalist standing in the 102 degree heat and told her that she had a fellow liar cohort inside.
I started talking to the other journalist. Turns out, she was an intern at a local magazine, and was, I believe, quite stressed out about the fact that she’d been the first to break this embarrassing news to the restaurant.
The manager came back, looking no more informed than she had before.
“Have you found the email yet?”
My feelings of awkwardness continued to rise.
“No. But I texted another blogger I know is coming. She gave me the name of the woman who invited us, and should be forwarding me the email.”
“Okay..let me know when you get it.”
She ran off again.
The email came in, so I told the Hostessish girl, who was still standing around.
“Okay – I’ll go get my manager.”
Harried manager came back.
I held out my phone to her, feeling as if I finally had proof of my legitimacy and desperately hoped that this would vindicate me and my intrusive presence.
“What? This company doesn’t even own us anymore!! They sold us.”
“Um… I’m sorry.”
“Can you email that to me? I need to be able to have a record of it.”
“Uh…sure. What’s your email address?”
She ran back to her computer. A few minutes later, she came back. Looking downright frightened.
“We aren’t…um…are we supposed to be… we’re not…paying for your dinner, are we?”
At this point, I was ready to melt through the floor with embarrassment for myself and for her.
…and was more than a bit concerned over how much she sounded like my dinner would be coming directly out of her paycheck.
“Well…it’s a media dinner…they invited us…that’s usually…the way it works.”
“I see. Um, okay. I’ll be back.”
I spotted a local Magazine editor that I know walking in from the parking lot. Thank GOODNESS. She was with another lady that looked familiar, so I assumed that they work together.
As soon as they got in, I felt it only right to clue them in on the developing situation. “Okay ladies, there’s some awkward stuff going on here.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“This is a total media fail. They have no idea why we’re here. And are quite stressed about it.”
The slightly familiar girl looked horrified. “Oh no!! I work for the PR company that put this on!! What in the world happened??? I am SO sorry.”
…at which point I realized what it actually felt like to want to melt through the floor – that first time was nothing.
(Mental Note: Always let people introduce themselves before explaining a failing situation.)
It turned out that she wasn’t in on the planning of the event, so I hadn’t just insulted her, or not exactly, anyway. She frantically got to work attempting to solve the situation, and the manager came around to tell us, in a very defeated voice, to “just order whatever you want.”
We stood there still awkwardly as our group began to grow and we felt the need to explain to the arriving bloggers and journalists what was happening.
After much more frantic texting and calling, the manager was finally able to track down that the event was supposed to have happened, but (clearly) there had been a breakdown in communication. But it was too late now.
We continued to stand around, waiting for some sort of direction.
The hostessish girl came back over. “Could you guys please all move outside? You’re crowding up the doorway.”
Well, that was a direction…
I looked outside at the waves of heat hitting the restaurant. I turned to the confused crowd with which I shared this Boat of Awkward. “Why don’t we just go ahead and order?”
I decided I’d be the first to go through the line.
Which meant that I then had to solve the issue of there being nowhere for a group of our size to sit.
Then again, since there was clearly going to be no media presentation, we didn’t all have to sit together. We were simply in dinner-survival mode at that point – long gone were the feelings of “Oh! Let’s check out this fun new restaurant!” So I found a small table, invited a few other wandering media to join me, ate my food, and vowed to never trust the legitimacy of email ever again.
So, if you ever go to this unnamed restaurant, you’ll know the one I’m talking about. Because you’re likely to get the following response at the door..
“Um, hello. Are we open today?”
“Yes, that’s what the sign on the door says…”
“Are you a…. customer??”
Because they won’t be expecting you.