I made a very important self discovery today. It took all of my life, but I finally discovered that I am a critic.
It feels really great to at last figure out what my problem has been for all these years. At times, I have thought deeply about why things are, how things are, where things are, etc…It truly has been exhausting.
Now, as a newly discovered critic, I don’t feel nearly as terrible as I used to for being so critical about people, places and things. It’s the way I am wired…it’s uncontrollable. Come to find out, it’s in my DNA. I am sure there is someone in my family I get this from. Hmmm, anyone?
This afternoon, we drove to the Berkshires for another exciting Thanksgiving dinner at the Red Lion Inn. If you have been reading this blog since its inception, you’ll know that this has become a tradition for us, one that we really look forward to.
The Red Lion Inn offers some of the best charm in the Berkshires. It is centrally located in Stockbridge, MA and is probably the most popular inn the entire Berkshire region offers. Unfortunately, all its popularity may be its undoing, with us anyway.
We have always liked traveling up to the Berkshires for a variety of events…concerts at Tanglewood, shopping in Lee, strolling in Lenox, lunch in Stockbridge, well, you get the picture. We generally have a very good time. Although, there have been times that I have come back with a bit of cognitive dissonance. Rob knows what that is. We learned it way back in marketing class at WCC. It’s when someone feels uneasy about something, like there is a mild conflict in their mind. You can look up its definition here. For business majors, it applies to marketing, but it is generally applied to social psychology.
I’ll give you a short, but true, example of a time I experienced cognitive dissonance and then I will get into my story about tonight.
When Laura and I stayed over at the Red Lion Inn last Christmas, we enjoyed ourselves very much. We had fun doing so many things, but when it came time to eat dinner in the main dining room, there was something that bothered us. About half way through dinner, we heard a stampede of kids running up and down the main hallway above us for about 15 minutes. I will tell you that the Red Lion Inn is not a “solid” building, so we heard this commotion loud and clear. I thought the plaster on the ceiling was going to start crumbling.
Since we pay a good price for our time at the Inn, I decided to walk up to the front desk and inform the girl working it that there were some rowdy children upstairs ruining my night. She replied, “Um, yeah, I know. We have already had a few complaints about that. My manager is going to be in tomorrow morning and I am going to leave a note for her.” I was stunned and almost offered to take my shoe off and chase these kids out of the building, but I remained civil. My even temperament took over and I grudgingly went back to the table.
When I sat back down, I told Laura that I was a little fed up and that we should reconsider future visits to the Red Lion Inn.
Fast forward a few months.
In September, we went apple picking up at Windy Hill Farm in Great Barrington and ate lunch at the Red Lion Inn. We had a wonderful meal and decided to make reservations for Thanksgiving dinner. When we have a good time, we get a little caught up in the moment.
Fast forward to tonight.
We had a 4PM reservation for dinner. What always struck me as odd was, while making our reservations, this inn has insisted on telling me that men must wear coats to dinner. I never knew why they were telling me this, because I dress nicely each time I visit. I didn’t like the fact that someone was telling me how to dress, but I chalked it up to “informing the tourists.” There are people who would try to eat dinner in Bermuda shorts if you let them. As I mentioned earlier, this inn is situated in one of the Berkshire’s most popular areas, there are bound to be tons of hungry looky-lous, and there are.
We arrived today at 3:30PM. While waiting, we strolled around and kept ourselves busy. Laura went into the gift shop and I sat at a chess table. Here are some photos of that:
As I was sitting at the chess table, I snapped a photo of a painting on the wall. I had no idea what it was of and I wasn’t even going to use it for this post. Upon later examination, I realized it may be the side lawn at Tanglewood. Here, check it out:
We usually sit where the flowers are in the painting.
After Laura was finished in the gift shop and I was done taking my photos, we walked in the main lobby of the inn. This is where I noticed something strange. I saw a guy walking into the main dining room wearing a cheesy, wrinkled sweater and sneakers. Now, trust me, I am not being judgemental, I am using this as ammo to make a point later on.
A few more minutes of waiting and we heard the golden word, “G.” Ok, now we were in business. The hostess walked us over to a table for two towards the front of the dining room. I would have preferred the rear because it is quieter back there, but the front was ok, I suppose.
We sat down next to a few larger tables to the side of us and another table for two directly behind me. This is where it gets interesting…
At the moment of my butt hitting the chair, I heard this loud, female, raspy, drunken voice scolding her (soon I would find out) boyfriend for being so lousy over the 20 year span of their relationship. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I could feel my face getting red, like it did when the kids were running around upstairs.
I took a breath and figured that I should keep my mouth shut because they would be done in a few minutes and they would leave. After they left, we could enjoy the rest of the night with the rest of the well behaved guests.
For the entire duration of our meal, we were forced to listen to this woman, very loudly scold her boyfriend that he was no good to her and no good to his mother. She claimed that he was going to leave her and that he wanted to kill his mother. I am not joking. This woman was plastered. She was slurring her words, but not drunk enough to keep ordering more drinks. She also found her way outside for a smoke every 10 minutes fairly easily.
Each time she went outside to smoke, she would come back into the dining room. She would smile at everyone and make small talk with people here and there. The minute she sat down, “You rotten, good for nothing, bast….”
Remember when I mentioned that we would wait until these people left to enjoy our dinner? Nope, apparently, these were the type of folks who sit and eat all night. If at a bar, these are the type of folks that you have to physically ask to leave when the bar is closing…then only to find out they are hiding in the bathroom. They were there before us and they remained after we left.
I know all this because we grew to know them intimately. All the folks at the surrounding tables knew them as well because they were very close too. I had such temptation to get up and grab the drunk lady by the throat, but I kept coming to the same conclusion that if I approached this woman, I would only get excited and mad and have my night ruined, I was confident that she would just enjoy it too much and she would make a very loud scene. In addition, in no way was this supposed to be my problem. Which brings me to the point of this post…
Where in the world was the uptight, rule enforcing waitstaff and hostess? I paid for this evening and nothing was done, in the least, about this Jerry Springer trailer park scene. It lasted an hour and all we got were a few uncomfortable smiles from the employees of the Red Lion Inn. In my opinion, this was unacceptable garbage. Everyone heard it and everyone knew what was going on. The problem was that we were too deep into our meals to change tables. Even as we were eating, a guy wearing a button down, lumberjack shirt walked by. You know the type of shirt…big red and black squares. So much for this “dress code.” I guess I should have dressed more comfortably.
I did a little search for upscale inns in the area after we got back to the house and found that our dinner at the Red Lion Inn was actually more expensive than comparable dinners at these other inns. I don’t want to sound like I am whining here, but I just figured that maybe, just perhaps I could have a nice classy night out with my lady without my blood pressure raising through the roof. It is, after all, the service and “experience” we are paying for.
I get excited about these nights out and I hate being let down.
After reading some reviews on Zagat, I have come to the conclusion that the Red Lion Inn is simply too popular with the tourists. It appears that this is an “anything goes” restaurant, as was evidenced by the gentleman walking in wearing sneakers and the scene that went on behind us. Oh yeah, the kids running up and down the hall way during our previous visit was a sure treat as well. Each time, nothing was done to even look like an attempt was being made to stop what was going on or to comfort the people who were trying to enjoy their holiday at the Red Lion Inn. I know this because, believe me, I watched and waited.
Unfortunately, I think we have been burnt by the Red Lion Inn for the last time. We can’t do it anymore. There are far too many restaurants and inns in the Northeast to have to put up with this kind of place. We decided that if we were in the area and wanted to stop for lunch, maybe we would give it a shot, but certainly not for dinner.
On a lighter note, hats off to the chef tonight. The food was excellent. As a matter of fact, if the staff of this place would get some guts and start throwing some of these people out on their ears, we wouldn’t have a problem at all. The waitstaff and other employees are always very nice and easy to get along with. It’s the other guests that are the problem. Problems are bound to arise, it’s what is done about them that matters.
Finally, here are a few shots of some tables and, of course, my Guinness.