Valium Vickie

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dear Signature Room

I didn't mind turning 30 as much as I thought I would. But when my girlfriend/fiance/soon-to-be-wife hit that milestone, it was a different story altogether. All of a sudden, it just hit me: I was never going to have sex with anyone in her twenties again. Unless I make some very poor life decisions and decide I want to give half of my shit away, I'll be banging mature adults from here on out -- and that's a terrifying realization. (For the record, when I turned 20, I never thought, "Oh shit, Jared, you're never going to have sex with another teenager again!)

Anyway, even though I didn't want to celebrate her body's natural aging process, I still took my girlfriend/fiance/soon-to-be-legal-responsibility out for a nice dinner. To mark the occasion, we went to The Signature Room, a restaurant located on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building in Chicago. While the dinner was nice, it's the correspondence I had with the Director of Operations following my innocuous responses to a survey that will last a lifetime. 

For your reading pleasure, here is that very conversation:

The Message That Started It All

Dear sir or madam,

I tried very hard to fill out your survey on my dining experience on 6/16, but unfortunately, I kept receiving this message: ERROR: Please fill out the required information in red -- even though I did fill out the required information in red.

It's a little frustrating considering I wanted to tell you what a great overall job you did. Also, I've put a considerable amount of time into the "Is there anything we could've improved about your visit ..." question, and I'd greatly appreciate some type of response. Here is my response to said question:

Overall, our dining experience at The Signature was superb. The food was delicious (I had the Pancetta Seared Scallops while my better half opted for the Filet of Beef), the view was breathtaking and the ambiance was enchanting. There was, however, one thing that put a damper on our evening. That thing was a peculiar German couple.

Before the couple’s food arrived, they made several discreet overtures toward my fiancé and me, such as heavy petting followed by long uncomfortable stares and winks in our direction. When the couple’s second bottle of wine arrived (the 2008 Petite Sirah from Artezin, which my fiancé and I would’ve chosen had we gone with a red), the German gentleman looked our direction (we were sitting adjacent to the couple), repeatedly stroked a bottle of wine, moaned something in his native tongue and laughed maniacally. Things got even more bizarre when the couple’s food arrived. The two used the Signature Room’s cuisine, which I’ll admit was delectable, to escalate their courting routine. There are many, many examples of how the strange German couple used your succulent dishes to lure my fiancé and me back to their bedroom. But in the interest of time, I’ll focus on the two most appalling.
Appalling example number one: The German man stood up, looked directly at us and said, “Excuse me.” Then, the pervert scooped up a good-sized handful of whipped potatoes (a side item of what looked like a perfectly cooked “Manhattan” Strip Steak entrée), yelled out “Das Animal” and shoved potatoes down his pants. With his hand deep down in his pants, this sad deviant proceeded to massage his potato-covered genitals and make this awful moaning sound until the waiter approached and asked if the couple would like another bottle of wine. (I believe they opted to stick with the Petite Sirah, which, I must say, was probably the right decision.)
Appalling example number two: The women turned to us (again, we were sitting adjacent to these freaks) and said, “Young couple, I vant you to see something.” Then she turned back to the man, said, “I vant you to eat some of mine,” and casually placed her entire dish onto her lap and slid her chair forward until her lap and the entrée were hidden from view. With that, the man pushed his chair back, got down on his hands and knees and crawled toward her end of the table. As soon as he reached her lap, the woman lifted the tablecloth to reveal a middle-aged man on all fours using only his mouth to devour a plate of food placed directly on top of his dining companion’s genital region – and evidently loving every second of it. For her part, the women looked directly at us, closed her eyes and softly moaned, “Ve vant to play. Ve Vant to play vith you two.” During the incident, I distinctly remember thinking two things: 1.) These are the most disturbed people I’ve ever encountered; and 2.) It looks like she got the Scallops, too. What an excellent choice. (That’s how impressed I was by your food!)

So why am I telling you this and what do I expect from you? Obviously, I don’t expect you to bar German couples from eating at The Signature Room. That would just be ridiculous. However, I do think there are several precautionary measures your restaurant could – and should – take. After all, I can’t imagine this is the first time you’ve heard of something like this happening. Here’s what I suggest: When someone with a thick German accent calls to make a reservation, try seating his or her party as far away from the other restaurant patrons as possible. Or, even better, add a small section that’s exclusively for German swingers. It may seem a bit much, but we all know the statistics: Just 7% of German couples are monogamous; 43% are admitted sexual deviants (of the legal variety); and 73% are self-described “swingers.” Please let me know what you think about my comments and suggestions. My fiancé and I are entertaining the idea of being married in Chicago and, should this occur, we’d love nothing more than to hold our rehearsal dinner at your one-of-a-kind restaurant.
Jared Bilski

The happy couple moments before a fictional German couple ruined their evening.

From: Angela Roman Aspito <>
To: "" <>
Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2013 2:34 PM
Subject: Recent Signature Room Email

Mr. Bilski,

This isn't funny. If you have legitimate feedback that you would like to share, please feel free to do so.

Otherwise, please stop wasting my time.

Angela Aspito
Director of Operations
The Signature Room at the 95th

Sent from my iPhone
From: jared bilski []
Sent: Friday, June 28, 2013 9:54 AM
To: Angela Roman Aspito
Subject: Re: Recent Signature Room Email

Ms. Aspito,

I never intended my response, which I think we both can agree was a bit disturbing, to be "funny." As for the legitimate feedback, I tried several times to fill out the survey form that you sent me with no success. Also, I believe that I did make it a point to say I rated your restaurant with "5s" in every category except for the timeliness of the food, which I gave a "3" (it did take a little longer than expected).

But none of this changes the unfortunate events that took place during my meal, which I felt obligated to pass along to The Signature Room. After rereading my message, I admit that my own neuroses (and possibly even personal prejudices) caused me to go a bit overboard in my response. My longtime therapist often tells me that I have a problem reacting without thinking about the consequences first, and I seem to have done so here. I realize now that asking you to section off an entire section of your restaurant for "German Swingers" is not only a bit unreasonable, but possibly even a form of discrimination, and I do apologize.

However, I was still very disturbed by the couple's behavior, and I was honestly trying to find out whether you've ever received similar complaints from other restaurant patrons. My fiance dined at The Signature Room years ago, and she told me she was involved in a similar, though not as extreme, incident with another aggressive couple. I've done some research and discovered that swingers tend to frequent a select group of restaurants on a regular basis. So, if The Signature Room is a hub for swingers, perhaps you should let other patrons know about it in advance, or designate a specific night for swingers. But again, I'm probably overstepping my bounds here.

Ms. Aspito, I'm a bundle of nerves over my experience, as well as how my comments on the experience were taken, and I hope this letter helps to clarify what I was trying (unsuccessfully) to convey with my initial -- and admittedly emotional -- email.

Jared Bilski

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Angela Roman Aspito <>
To: jared bilski <>
Sent: Saturday, June 29, 2013 5:51 PM
Subject: RE: Recent Signature Room Email

Mr. Bilski,

I took your initial email very seriously, and I watched our video footage from the night of your visit.  For the duration of your meal I was able to see your table and the table next to you and there is absolutely no evidence of the claims you are making.  Additionally, I spoke with your server and he informed me that nothing out of the ordinary occurred in his station that evening.  Since there is nothing to corroborate your story, I am taking it for just that, a story.  And I will not be responding to any further correspondence from you.


Angela Roman Aspito
Director of Operations
The Signature Room at the 95th®

Monday, August 12, 2013

I've Never Been 'Molested, Molested'

I went to Catholic school for 13 years, five of those years as an altar boy, so I've spent a lot of time around priests as a kid, and nothing ever happened to me ... at least I'm pretty sure nothing ever happened to me. It's impossible to be absolutely certain. Because the media made it sound like every altar boy during my tenure as an alter boy had been molested. So when that scandal broke, I started second-guessing my entire childhood. I revisited every single encounter I ever had with a priest to make sure I wasn't missing something.

After filing through and dismissing virtually all of my childhood interactions with priests, I determined there was only one possible situation where something actually could've happened. When I was around 10 or 11, this frail old priest with these giant, black futuristic-looking prescription sunglasses drove over to my house, picked me up and took me out to dinner at Roy Rogers. It was just the two of us. 

That's me: Third row, first dude from the left. The quote at the top of the picture is a nice touch for this story.

From what I remember, it was a normal, if slightly boring, experience. True, this priest was guilty of taking me to a low-level fast food restaurant. After all, McDonald's and Burger King were right in the same vicinity.  But I had absolutely no reason to think anything inappropriate ever took place …except for the hundreds and hundreds stories on the scandal that had a similar beginning: “This man of God used to get young boys alone with promises of fast food, but you’ll never believe what these young boys got instead. Story at 11.” 

I went over the Roy Rogers trip in my head so obsessively that I convinced myself something must’ve happened, and I'd just blocked it out. I even asked my mom if she remembered that frail priest with the huge glasses taking me to dinner. She remembered the Roy Rogers trip all right, and she thought it was weird and she was even a little worried while I was gone. She also told me she was sure nothing life-altering had happened. But instead of just assuring me nothing happened, she had to give me her personal theory on why it didn't.
“Hon, you need to stop worrying about this, you weren't even gone long enough to be, you know, molested, molested.”*

I know she meant to put my mind at ease, but because of the words she chose, “molested, molested,” it sounded to me like she was saying, "Hon, there’s no way anything too traumatic could’ve happened in such a short amount of time, but even if, god forbid, you had your sac tickled a little, at least you got a free meal out of it.”

I guess what I'm saying is sometimes it's good to second-guess the way you remember the past. Thanks to my little trip down memory lane, and the conversation with my mom that followed, I learned that the logistical possibility of my being molested during a trip to Roy Rogers with my parish priest was extremely low. Besides, without looking back, I never would've learned about my mom's unique version of the "Five-Second Rule" regarding molestation. Apparently, a child, much like a slice of pizza that falls on a dirty floor, will be just fine as long as long as he or she is only touched inappropriately for a minimal amount of time.

*Note: I intentionally left out the part of the story where my mom made it a point to stress I acted perfectly normal (for me) when I returned from the Roy Rogers trip, which helped convince her everything was fine. But that's pretty boring, and nobody wants to hear that part, right?