When I was little, my mom used to tell me not to use the word “hate”. Instead, she requested that I use phrases like “dislike immensely” or “don’t care for”. In 6th grade, my English teacher was big on learning new vocabulary, and I remember being so excited when we learned the word “abhor”. It wasn’t hate, but I felt it effectively communicated the point. All these years later, I try to make it a personal practice to not “hate” things, but sometimes, hating is unavoidable. For example, I hate when people are knowingly rude to one another. I hate when people use the word “retard”. But something I loathe, something that tops my list of pet peeves, is when cab drivers don’t have change.
A few weeks ago, my cousin was in town from Montreal, so Dish and I planned an evening of party hopping and schmoozing to give her a brief glimpse of the city. We enjoyed champagne cocktails at Pops for Champagne and then headed to see a really cool art exhibit at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Ave. Food ran out early, so we decided to join our family at dinner at Opera (1301 S. Wabash).
If you’re familiar with Chicago, you’re probably realizing by now that the commute from the Renaissance Blackstone to Opera is less than a mile. But on this particularly cold Thursday evening, donning our high heeled boots, there was no way I could’ve happily survived the walk. So we jumped in a cab and made our way to the restaurant. The total cab fare was about $5 and Dish, in her generosity, asked the cab driver for $12 back. He said he had $8 in cash and could give us $2 in quarters, which is, in my opinion, unacceptable. We spent about 5 minutes debating with the driver, arguing that it was his responsibility to have change for his patrons. Eventually, he threw (literally) the $20 bill back at Trish and told us to “get out of his cab, now”. So we did.
We found my family and sat down to a seriously delicious dinner accompanied by equally delicious wine. First, we enjoyed the Malaysian Red Chili Mussels made with Ground Pork, Sambal Olek, and Cilantro. Sambal Olek is a classic Indonesian dish made out of chilies with no other additives (like garlic or spices). The result is a simple, clean taste that adds a ton of heat to the dish without overpowering the other flavors. The three of us girls decided to split the Tempura Golden Shrimp in a Wok-smoked Chili Glaze, Crisp Maine Lobster Spring Rolls with Tropical Fruit and Mango Sauce, and the yummiest Crisp Orange Beef I’ve ever had. The dishes were traditionally themed but had an eclectic flare that we all really enjoyed.
Then, elbow deep in our Orange Beef, the host came over to our table to ask if we had taken a cab to the restaurant. Without much hesitation, we all answered “yes” in unison, thinking maybe we had left something behind. Instead, the host shows the cab driver to our table where he proceeds to ask Trish for her $20 and hands her $12 in return. We were in such shock we didn’t even think to refuse his request and he wound up walking away with 60% tip!
Once the shock dissipated, I was livid. I couldn’t believe that the host didn’t protect the privacy of us guests and that he so willingly brought a perfect stranger over to our table. We brought the matter to the manager’s attention, but here’s the thing; our experience was completely tainted by that point, which is a total shame because the food at Opera rocks. It REALLY does. What’s more- our server was tremendous and the restaurant is super fun, funky and vibrant. I like Opera. A lot. So while I won’t let one experience ruin many enjoyable dinners to come, I’ll always remember Opera as the place where a creepy, inefficient cab driver stalked us and ruined a perfectly pleasant evening.