Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's on the menu? No, really?

Every time I hear the phrase, “Grow old gracefully,” I think one of two things: the person speaking is in their early twenties with no power of observation or they live on the international space station where the laws of gravity don’t apply. And while I know certain aspects of the aging process are inevitable, there are some that I feel are completely manmade or at the very least, exacerbated by a cruel echelon of the restaurant industry.

And it’s got nothing to do with what’s on the menu, but everything to do with how it’s printed.

I’m no stranger to visual impairments. I have worn glasses since the fourth grade, got my first pair of contacts when I was sixteen, and have “CORRECTED LENSES” branded on my driver’s license. After years of deteriorating eyesight, I now stick a pair of contact lenses in my eyes the diameter of an espresso saucer. The number for the prescription strength on the box reads like the daily low temperature in Nome in January. I use enough saline solution in the morning to brine a barrel of anchovies. If I do want to wear my glasses I have wait for the requisition request from the planetarium to be approved. So believe me when I say I know vision problems.

But lately, even with my extensive prosthetics I can’t read a simple menu at a restaurant. I thought it was just me until I realized that every one of my friends suddenly has new reading glasses perched on the end of their noses. We hold our menus at an arm’s length away. We ask one another what they are ordering--not out of polite curiosity, but because we’re hoping someone in our group can read some selections aloud.

Because we are obviously still adjusting to this new phenomenon, often most of us never remember to bring our new readers. Or we’ve misplaced them--usually right on our heads. But that’s okay because women share reading glasses liberally--prescription strength is moot since we all self-diagnosed our purple tortoise shell frames with the matching case from the grocery store checkout anyway.

I’m not sure what restaurateurs have to gain by printing their menus in .00047 point font, for surely they’ve noticed that tables with diners over the age of 40 take twice as long to order as any other age bracket. We must seem terribly rude as well since as soon as we sit down and the menus are produced we immediately power up our cell phones. Not to text or make a call mind you, but to get some sort of focused light so we can read the wine list. Perhaps they do this purposely since inevitably I now always order the special because the waiter can recite it out loud and I’m spared the embarrassing struggle of trying to decipher the appetizers. 

Over dinner, we sometimes speak of improved sight options. Some have had surgery, others have trifocals. Just the thought of this gives me vertigo and I can’t help but wonder what happens in a stiff wind? Instead of the thousands of lives I’d put in danger if while driving I looked down a millimeter and blew through a stop sign because I was looking through the wrong lens plane, why can’t restaurants just forgo the ecru ink?

So please, I beg of you Emeril, Wolfgang, Bausch and Lomb, please help an aging, but still hungry, diner out. Taking a cue from the luggage carousel, once we retrieve our credit cards from the pile on the table by the multi-colored ribbons we’ve attached, I assume we are good tippers.

And at the very least, those waiters are going to have to repeatedly shout those specials of tapioca and prune juice at us soon enough.

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