The Social Experiment
Have you ever visited a restaurant for the first time, searched out the restroom and double-checked to be sure you were in the right one? Well, there’s a restaurant in Chattanooga that will make you ponder that more than you’ve ever thought you would.
About six months ago, relatively new to Chattanooga, I’d just launched the second novel in a series I’d been working on. In celebration, I was invited out by a group of new friends to a restaurant downtown. I did a little research on the place beforehand to peruse the menu offerings and, of course, the directions. Truthfully, I’m a social butterfly, and I love to explore a new area and find quirky and/or trendy places. My googling around indicated that the atmosphere in this restaurant would be a fun place to kick back and celebrate.
One of the great things about Chattanooga is the fun atmosphere created by the student population. Although I’m much older than the average college crowd, at fifty-six, I seem to fit in better now than I did when I was in my twenties. Perhaps that’s because my full-time job as a court reporter doesn’t allow me to be social, or talk, ever. Give me a crowd and my inner storyteller emerges in full form.
Although I didn’t know it when I walked into this two-story restaurant full of people playing games, sitting on sofas, drinking beer and eating pub grub, the night was about to create a story I’d never forget and one I’d love to share frequently. I met my group of friends and we decided to eat upstairs on the exterior deck so that we could hear ourselves talk.
We were seated, ordered drinks and food, and after about half an hour, one of the women in the group asked another where the restroom was. When she returned, she said, “The rest room is really strange.” Intrigued, I asked, “What’s strange about it?” She said, “I’m not going to spoil it, but I’ll just say it has something to do with the mirror.” Even more intrigued, although I didn’t really need to use the rest room, I ventured downstairs and asked for directions.
The hostess pointed it out to me, and as I went around a few corners, I made sure I walked into the rest room that was clearly marked for the women, noticing that to the right was the one marked for the men. Neither had doors, but that wasn’t unusual. I slowly entered, having been warned about the strange mirror. I looked just inside the door, carefully canvassing every inch of the rest room. There was a mirror to my left, just inside the entrance.
I stood there, just looking at it. Nope, nothing strange to see there. Then I walked past the hand sink and saw the mirrors above. Again, nothing appeared strange to me. I thought to myself that my friend must have had a little too much to drink and thought nothing more of it. I walked into the stall and then emerged to wash my hands. And that’s when it happened. Strange snuck up on me.
I was in the middle of washing my hands when two men appeared in the mirror in front of me. Or was it behind me? Wait… was I in the wrong rest room? Were they? In a few seconds, I realized what was happening as the men were standing there, with eyes widened, eyebrows wrinkled, and mouths open.
I waved, because I’m social, remember, and said, “Hey! How are you?” They both jumped backwards and said, “Whoa!” I said, “This is a little bizarre, huh?” and we all began to laugh as we realized that everyone was sober and in their correct rooms. What we thought was a mirror (because you expect one to be above the hand sink) was a framed cutout for a mirror, but an empty space. Neither of us had realized that we weren’t seeing our reflection in the “mirror.” We were seeing straight through, looking at the wall in the opposite bathroom, not the one behind us.
Strange doesn’t quite cover it, right? At that point, I looked up to see if there was a video camera conspicuously hidden somewhere, but there wasn’t one. It was hilarious enough without the hidden cameras; so much so that I laughed all the way back to my table, and while recounting it to my friends, and every time I even think about it. It really brings social to a new level, don’t you think?
Now, I suppose you’re wondering why I haven’t told you the name of the restaurant. Well, that’s because I’m a writer, and although I gave you a few clues, I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you want to find it, venture out, be social, find the quirky spots. You’ll know when you’re in the wrong — I mean, right place.