This New Reality

“I noticed that the waiter looked like a surgeon in his fully protective suit. I wasn’t sure if he was going to serve me my food or surgically remove my tonsils.”

As expressed a couple of times in my past columns, I refuse to subscribe to the use of that oft-repeated misnomer, “The New Normal” or “The Next Normal” simply because everything we do now is not within the bounds of normalcy. 

I am willing, although still with a tinge of reluctance, to submit myself to the more appropriate: “New Reality” or “New Environment.” I realize this seemingly trivial detail does not merit a debate by opposing schools of thought, but I just feel more comfortable putting things in their proper perspective.

Our world, indeed, has turned upside down. If you take a closer look at what we do now, you’ll know that this was never part of the future we dreamt of before. 

After many months of being confined to my residence, I had this sudden urge to liberate myself from such bondage. Although comfortable, relaxing, and completely furnished with modern conveniences of this era, my house was beginning to feel like a detention facility, so off I went to celebrate some semblance of freedom. Months of home cooking interspersed with delivery sustenance made me hanker for some nice, honest-to-goodness, juicy steak.

The waiter in full protective gear serving my lunch.
I asked my driver to bring me to a nearby deluxe hotel, the main restaurant of which was one of my pre-lockdown favorites. Their food is always good, and with servings more than I can finish. 

Upon entering the hotel, the security team first directed me to a foot-operated water fountain where guests were required to wash their hands. While doing it, I remembered what I’ve seen in movies where the Moslem faithful would wash their hands before entering their place of worship, although in my case, I was not there for anything holy, but to feast on the hotel’s culinary offering. 

As I entered, the few hotel employees who greeted me were all wearing face masks, face shields, and gloves, giving me the impression that I was walking into some sort of a medical laboratory. I proceeded immediately to the restaurant, which was completely deserted, except for a receptionist and a waiter. The scene was exactly the opposite of how this restaurant used to be, pre-COVID, which required guests to make advance reservations way ahead of time as the venue was always fully booked. 

While poring over the menu, I noticed that the waiter looked like a surgeon in his fully protective suit (much like a PPE or personal protective equipment), complete with face mask, face shield, and gloves. I wasn’t sure if he was going to serve me my food or surgically remove my tonsils.

A guest washing his hands before entering the hotel.
The other unusual thing I noticed was that the waiter always kept a safe distance from me, in spite of his fully covered persona. Naturally, I had to call out my order loudly and had him answer me back with the same volume of voice.

Then, my order came, and I could immediately see my dreamed-of juicy steak on the plate. But, when it landed on my table, I noticed the sad reality of this, and of all future culinary experiences—the food came in a plastic plate with disposable cutlery, following the strict guidelines imposed by our Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force. 

I tried to disregard this new standard of food service every time I chewed on the tender meat. But still, I couldn’t help grieving over where the pandemic has brought fine dining. I hasten to add, however, that the food was really good, exactly how I had expected it to be.

When the check came, I couldn’t help but notice the waiter giving it to me in a small basket with a very long handle, much like those collection baskets they pass around in church from pew to pew. Paying for the bill made me feel I was giving my usual Sunday offering.

I left the hotel depressed and worried that this is how future “dining out” will be. Will it be better then, to just stay home and order for some food? But, how will a “happy celebration” be in the future? Is there a better way than this? What are your thoughts on this new reality? Share them with me.


I saw a telescope on the restaurant table beside me. I don’t know who owns it. I’m still looking into it.

For feedback, I’m at [email protected]

Topics: New Normal , Department of Health , Fine dining , food service , COVID-19 , Inter-Agency Task Force
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