What I Learned This Week: #165

Monday, October 5 – Sunday, October 11

The Week In First Jobs: A powerful craving for a chocolate malt led me to end my evening walk at the ice cream shop on the corner. The cashier was a very enthusiastic young man, and I could kind of tell he was new on the job, like he didn’t quite know the register keys, but he was totally getting it. He handed me my change of $5.25 with a 5 dollar bill, which I handed right back to him and told him, “You know, if you give me 5 singles you will probably get a tip. With this 5 spot, probably not.” I could see the light bulb go off as he handed me 5 bills. Or maybe he didn’t know what I meant by “spot.: Anyway, he thanked me and quickly turned his back to me to whisper in a more senior employee’s ear, “How do you make a malt?” Aww.

The Week in What May or May Not Have Been a First Job: It’s tough in the Covid Era to do anything on the fly. Businesses aren’t keeping “normal” hours and every place has new and different rules. This was on my mind Sunday when I was out running errands and needed a small bite to eat. My easiest option was to grab something from Panera. Outside of two of their breakfast items – the bakery quiches and the egg on ciabatta sandwich – I’m not a hug Panera fan. The corporate image is smug “we’re better than fast food” but the service and quality of the dining room is always exactly the same as any fast food place, except with a fire place.

Mask on and hungry, I joyfully I ordered Broccoli mac and cheese to a particularly joyless cashier. It was 6 bucks for a cup because, Panera is ridiculous. And, surprise to me, mac and cheese comes with a side dish, I mean, I thought mac and cheese WAS the side dish. It seemed to aggravate the cashier that I didn’t know I needed to order a side with my side. Well, someday it will dawn on her that I was right. Maybe.

When I got back to the parking lot to eat in my car (Covid Era dining without planning blows) I noticed my plain, not broccoli mac and cheese was cold, except for one or two warm pieces on one side of the cup. And I mean cold…there were ice chips. I tried to think of it as a Mac n’ Cheese “o Rita! Honestly, I hope the employee who thought she/he was killing it on the microwave front, really was just having a learning experience at my expense.

The Week in Dining, Purposefully: I grabbed dinner at Teak, a restaurant that opened during the Covid Era. That’s chutzpah! Teak in OTR is owned by the same people who owned one of Cincinnati’s most beloved restaurants, Teak in Mt. Adams. That location closed years ago, but there are legions of Cincinnatians who ate their first Pad Thai overlooking the city in Teak 1.0.

The new Teak has the same emphasis on service and experience. It’s one of the few restaurants where the waitstaff wears matching jackets. Swank! The menu has a large selection of options, unusual for downtown restaurant, that includes a great deal of standard Thai fair, some interesting Asian-American fusions and a sizable sushi menu.

I ate by myself, something I used to do a lot pre-Covid, but I didn’t linger the way I used to. Back in the day, when I dined during the week and the restaurant wasn’t busy, I would start on a cocktail, then amble around to ordering food, and maybe have a second drink with my meal. I’d be reading and chatting with the bartender and other patrons. Fun! In the Covid era, sitting at the bar partitioned from other patrons, I told my bartender I was not in a hurry, but my goal was to eat and get the hell out. She understood perfectly. I had a delicious, not rushed but fairly quick dinner. I don’t think eating out all the time is a great idea, but eating out occasionally, in a half-full restaurant could be a social lifeline for me, and a chance for me to support my local businesses. All good.

The Week in Love: On Saturday afternoon, a beautiful, warm fall day, I was quietly sitting in my apartment when I heard a sound system warming up in the park out my window. That would be typical pre-Covid, but not nowadays. I walked to the window and there was a group of well-dressed people socially distancing and I realized I was watching the beginning of a wedding. Welp, I’m not proud. I watched the whole thing from my apartment. The bride’s speech gutted me. I cried. I miss crying at weddings. I miss sharing the happiness of random strangers.

The blur is either my camera vs. the screen, or my

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