Several years ago, I had one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my traveling life which resulted in my husband and I inadvertently committing various crimes against swag.
After a full day of walking the Mall area of Washington DC and Arlington Cemetery with Billy and Donna, we went to eat a late supper. When we travel, we have a rule of not eating anywhere that we can eat when we are at home. Given that we were visiting such an ethnically diverse area, we added an additional rule of no “American” food until we headed back home. With those perimeters in mind, we decided to try an Ethiopian restaurant. Billy and I have eaten that kind of food several times and enjoyed it and knew Donna would as well.
Billy had Googled an area, not a specific restaurant so when we arrived at the strip mall, there were several places to choose from (or so we thought!) The lone buffet was closed for the day, so we decided to go to the restaurant next to it–the one that said “restaurant” on the sign and had pictures of food in the window. When we walked in, it was a bare room full of men playing table games. They all immediately stopped what they were doing and turned to stare at us. I know we looked like tourists–sunburned faces, tennis shoes, and cameras–but even so, it’s common in DC. I was ready to turn around and leave but my husband, bless his heart, with nary a morsel of food in sight, decides to block my exit and ask the lone woman in the place if they served food!!!! When she replied, “What kind of food?” I pushed past him and left. I didn’t want to be rude, but the dead silence and stares made me more than a little paranoid and frankly, if they were giving away food, even as cheap as I am, I wouldn’t have stayed to eat!
By this time, I was ready to chuck our rules and get a Big Mac, but we ended up at a “cafe” a few doors down. This place also had food pictures on their windows. Surprise! It wasn’t a cafe. It was a hookah bar. (For those of you who don’t know what a hookah is, it’s a big water pipe that holds flavored tobacco that has several tubes coming out of it that you can sit around with people and smoke. In simpler terms, it’s a fancy, ornamental bong that contains legal substances! And although in certain cultures it’s been around for thousands of years, hookah has become the new “thing” of the college generation.) Donna said when we (meaning Billy and me) entered the hookah bar, we (again meaning Billy and me) brought the “swag” factor down a few notches. (And in case you don’t know what “swag” is, according to the Urban Dictionary, the term “swag” is used to describe anyone thought to carry themselves in a way considered by some to be sexy and/or cool.) Well, if our mere presence lowered the hookah bar’s swag, you can only imagine how it plummeted when we ordered food!
The waitress was friendly and wanted to know what brought us in since it was obvious to everyone within a 20-mile radius that we (meaning Billy and I) didn’t fit in there. When I told her the story about the restaurant just a few doors down, she laughed. And she continued to do so every time she walked past us! It was so dark and smoky in there from the hookahs that the Main Swag Killer pulled the worst dad move in history. He had to break out his keychain flashlight just to see the menu! I’m pretty sure when we ordered, the waitress walked out the back door, down the street, and got food from another restaurant because we were the only people eating. Why she just didn’t direct us there is beyond me. And as we got up to go, the manager, in an extreme gesture of kindness, came and asked us if we enjoyed ourselves and stated she was looking forward to seeing us again–SOON. I smiled, nodded and muttered something about “if we’re ever back in the area” but what I really wanted to say was, “when hell freezes over!!”
And, in case you’re wondering, we never did get the Ethiopian food we were hoping for, we (meaning Billy and I) never stepped foot in a hookah “café” again, and yes, he still carries a flashlight on his keychain…