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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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Sticking My Deck Out

I have a lot of bad ideas. Ten-plus years of archives here should be plenty enough proof of that.

But sometimes, I have good ideas. Or at least, ideas that seem good.

And then turn out less good. Usually a lot less good. And ultimately bad.

Take the “Dining Deck”, for instance. Way back in January, I was shopping in this little store near our place called the Meat House.

“I tend to only patronize establishments that advertise something I want in the very name of the store.”

(For the record, I don’t do a lot of shopping. I tend to only patronize establishments that advertise something I want in the very name of the store. As in, “Meat House”. Or “Beer Warehouse”. Or “Ye Olde Spicy Burrito Shoppe”.)

I’d just finished a successful shopping trip — by which I mean, I was lugging fourteen pounds of sausage and three six packs to the register — when something on the counter caught my eye. It looked like a pack of playing cards, and was labeled “Dining Deck”. Between mouthfuls of complimentary cheese samples — which I was totally still entitled to, because I hadn’t physically left the premises yet — I asked the cashier what sort of a thing that was.

He spun me a tale of magic and culinary wonder. The “Dining Deck”, he explained, held fifty cards, each specific to a different restaurant and entitling the bearer to a ten-dollar discount on a meal. Any day, any time — no restrictions, other than a minimum purchase of an entree or two. The pack cost twenty bucks to buy, right then and there, and the cards wouldn’t expire until 2014.

Now, I’m no math major. But I could see — after doodling “air math” for a moment to be sure — that twenty bucks was less than saving ten dollars fifty times. Like, a lot less. Millions, maybe. So it seemed like a Good Idea™ to buy the deck. A very Good Idea™, indeed. I couldn’t afford not to.

So I did. And I took my new prize home to the missus, nestled between two fat bratwursts and a cold delicious Tramp Stamp.

(Er, that’s the prize that was nestled. Not my wife. Keep it clean out there, slappy.)

I explained the deal to my wife, and we opened the deck, browsing over all the cards. There were sushi places and Italian joints and bars ‘n’ grills and tapas houses and Korean barbecues and restaurants of every kind. Which was perfect. We love all sorts of food, and though we don’t go out terribly often — maybe once a week, on average — that still gave us time to sample all the myriad delights of the Dining Deck, one by one and at our leisure. We drifted off to sleep that night, with visions of pork dumplings and truffle fries and patatas bravas in our heads. And I was sure, at last, I’d truly had a Good Idea™.

Ahem. Fast-forward to now, and the Dining Deck here on the table, full — not completely, but almost completely of cards. As perfect as it sounded, ultimately the proof is in the pudding we never made it out to order after a meal. Where did I go so wrong?

I forgot we were lazy.

Not completely lazy, mind you. And not always lazy. But when it comes to going out to dinner — usually after a week of work, and maybe a Saturday of catching up on chores and writing and gym time and sleep and whatever the TiVo slaved over a hot cable network to tape for us — we don’t put a lot of effort into the decision. We go out, yes. We have a good time. But we’re lazy. Food lazy.

Which means we travel as little as possible. Luckily — also, plannedly, which is totally a sequence of letters I’m claiming is a word — we live in a neighborhood where we can walk to several kinds of restaurants. Within an eight-block or so radius, we can get Mexican food (both “bar style” and semi-authentic), tapas, sushi, Korean, Italian, oysters, steak, Irish pub fare, Thai, pizza and more. That list may look vaguely familiar — it’s quite similar to what’s offered in the “Dining Deck”.

Only those restaurants are generally further away. Like, more than a mile. Garcon, please.

Of course, we get the Deck out now and then. We used the cards for the really-really-uber-local joints in the first month — so I suppose we at least didn’t lose money on the deal. But since then, we tend to flip through the cards, pick out a nice-sounding place — a Chinese restaurant, say — and get all psyched up to go… and then think:

Huh. We’d have to drive there. And park. And drive back. And then walk back from the parking spot, for crissakes. If we want Chinese, why don’t we just go to our usual place down the street?

And there’s no good answer why not. It’s right there, unlike the place that gives you ten dollars back. Maybe if they gave you ten dollars, a free cab ride and a piggyback from the taxi to the table, we’d try it out. But they don’t have a deck for that kind of deal. Not in this country, at least.

So we’ve got eight weeks left in the year, and forty-eight unused cards in the Dining Deck, collecting dust on our table. It’s not like we’re getting any less lazy over time, so I’m not sure how they’re going to get used before 2014. I guess what I’m saying is:

Anybody in the Boston area into giving out taxi trips and piggyback rides? There’s a free appetizer in it for you. Or a cocktail, take your pick. Best deal in town, this side of Tequila Warehouse.

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