Here is what Curious Dinner Season #1 was like from a guest’s perspective. In the next post I will cover some of what happened behind the scenes and lessons learned.
You receive an email from paperlesspost.com that contains this message:
You RSVP and receive acknowledgement that you are on the list.
You go off to find coins.
The night of the dinner.
You arrive at my house and walk up the porch steps. There is a small robot waiting for you. He appears to be made out of cardboard boxes, flexible ductwork, and aluminum foil. You hear him speak to you through his barely lit mouth: “Please feed me the coins then knock on the door”. You do as he says.
The door is opened by a person dressed in black whom you will soon know as one of the mute and mildly disgruntled “silverware people”. They hold a basket out to you which contains a sign saying “please put your phone here”. You put your go-to solution for boring parties into the basket and wonder how you’ll cope if this is a boring party. You see twelve seats at a long table covered with an unironed tablecloth. It appears to be a normal living room.
There’s a woman playing piano in the corner. Her back is to you. Some of what she plays sounds good but most of it sounds random and discordant. She does not look up.
You are handed an envelope. Inside the envelope is a question that doesn’t make much sense to you. There are answers at each place setting. None of them appear to be the answer to your question. You just take a guess and have a seat.
As other guests arrive the silverware people come out with a large cardboard box jangling with silverware. They struggle finding the right silverware for everyone. You wonder how clean things are able stay inside a cardboard box.
The guests who still struggling to answer their questions are shown to a seat. The piano player ends her subdued but erratic performance and leaves the room.
There are drink menus on the table and one of the silverware people takes their orders on a pad of paper. The menu looks like this:
You take a chance on the Oppossum Milk.
Once everyone has their drink, menus are handed out. Each person receives a different menu. Yours looks like this:
The mood is relatively subdued and you and the other guests are not sure if they should talk or not.
Then a woman comes out and announces that she is the customer satisfaction specialist. And she is not satisfied with the customers. She shows them a “conversation meter” indicating how poorly they are conversing.
She indicates that she has a fix for that. Small talk has been prepared for the guests to participate in.
At the cue of the customer satisfaction specialist, two people come out and distribute papers. Each person gets a different paper. Yours looks like this:
The conversation (one person per line) starts pretty normally:
How’s your day?
Cedar allergies am I right?
Cedar is brutal.
Sometimes it makes me want to leave town.
Try nasal spray
Yeah. Nasal spray
Totally nasal spray
Oh yeah. Spray.
N. a. s. a. l. SPRAY
Traffic was awful getting here yeah.
Yes it really was.
Soon it turns a little less prosaic:
I had 10 cups of coffee today because I was thinking too much about tigers.
I like coffee.
I like egg.
My car smells like tigers and eggs.
These colors don’t run.
I run a 5k last weekend.
I’m the new mascot for the spur in my boot.
My son! He’s called spurtle. He’s illegally changed his name to spurtle.
Once the small talk is over, the customer satisfaction specialist comes out and shows that the conversation meter has improved dramatically.
Now that you and the other guests are off and running hot, you are left to continue the conversations without assitance.
A few minutes later a waitress who looks a lot like the piano player but is not comes out and walks over to a small table cover in a red sheet. She takes the sheet off to reveal an old metal typewriter on a wheeled table. She pushes it haphazardly across the room due to the table’s clunky wheels stopping at the nearest guest. She begins to take orders. Since the menus were not helpful, the guests have to do their best. This takes a while. The waitress is a slow typer.
Eventually all orders are taken and the Customer Satisfaciton Specialist returns to distribute compliment cards for the guests to fill out. It seems odd timing for this but much about this dinner is odd.
While you fill out a compliment card that asks somewhat personal questions that don’t seem to have much to do with the dinner, the appetizer is served.
As everyone is eating, two people with shields and swords come out on horses made out of white tube socks and have a short jousting match. When the jousting is over, guests are invited to line up and pet the horses. You get in line excitedly.
While the table is cleared of dishes and you decide to use the restroom.
When you walk through the door you hear a screeching dolphin. You look to see a plastic dolphin figurine behind the door which you conclude is motion activated somehow. You walk across the floor mat and it makes sounds like a piano with each step. You do your business quickly and return to the dining room to continue talking with the other guests. No one mentions hearing a dolphin.
Then the lights go out and someone yells “Drop the beats!”. Dance music from Darude’s “Sandstorm” begins to blare and disco lights suddenly fill the room. A man in a strange dance outfit comes out and starts dancing manically as the silverware people begin serving the salad. It’s beats. Ah. You get it now. Drop the beets.
As soon as everyone is served the music stops and the room goes back to normal.
The plates are cleared and more mingling happens.
The lights fade to a wavy blue and the song “Under the Sea” begins to play. The door to the lower room opens and someone comes out wearing blue blanket over themselves. This, presumably, is the sea. They begin to walk around the table. Then giant crab arms come out from under the blanket and begin to snap at everyone’s heads, somewhat annoyingly. Then it disappears and the room returns to normal.
Then someone comes out and says it is time to say grace. There is a tinny recorded with a inaudible message being played. You’re not sure what to make of it. When it ends, you and the other guests are encouraged to chant “food food food food” over and over, louder and louder. Once everyone is yelling sufficiently, the main course is served.
While everyone is eating, silverware people come out and set up what looks to be a fake brick wall and sign that says “Kate’s Chuckle Hut”.
The lights go out and a spotlight is shined on the Chuckle Hut. Someone comes out on stage and thanks everyone for coming to the comedy club tonight. The headliner is introduced enthusiastically and comes out to great applause. Most of the applause seems to be coming from the speakers in the room.
The comedian brings papers filled with corny riddles that she quizzes the guests with. She spends a lot of time searching through the internet printouts looking for “good ones”.
There is a laugh track. At first the laugh track occurs after she tells the punchline. Then it becomes more erratic, happening any random intervals.
At the end of the routine she shouts “Look under your chairs!” Is this your Oprah moment?
You look under your chair and there is an envelope taped to the bottom of it. Will you get a car? No. Inside the envelope are two scratch and sniff stickers each of a different desert. You are told to pick one and give it to Oprah. Is Oprah there? No. But there is a giant Oprah head that comes out and you are instructed to give your choice of desert to Oprah. Then servers come out and give you a desert that matches neither of the stickers. Oprah disappears before you can ask her what happened.
Immediately after, two performers come out wearing call-center headsets and dressed in business attire. They stand next to a giant boardroom easel. It has a equally giant pad of paper on it. One of the performers writes “Executive Realness” on it. Then “To Be Real” by Cheryl Lyn kicks on through the speakers, the lights dim, and the performers begin to vogue around the table as they throw business cards at people while displaying a lot of executive attitude. When the song ends, they disappear and the room goes back to normal.
A silverware person then distributes dinner checks to people. Yours doesn’t have amounts on it, just weird symbols and a few hearts. It is indicated that you must sign it and return it. There are pens. You grab one and it shocks you. You grab another pen, which turns out ot be normal and you sign the check.
You see someone else’s check and it looks like this:
The checks are returned. You look at the table and it is a now a pile of business cards, customer satisfaction papers, dishes, glasses, envelopes, candles, and electric pens.
You hear music fading in. It’s the melacholy Tuesday’s Gone by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The lights in the room get brighter than they’ve been all night. The music gets louder. You hear a vacuum cleaner. One of the hosts walks to the front door, opens it wide and casts the guests a knowing look. A vacuum cleaner is heard, then seen pushed into the living room by a silverware person. It’s time to go.
Everyone gets up and begins to walk out the door as the hosts continue to clean up without acknowledging the guests’ departure. The music and vacuum cleaner grow so loud that no one attempts to talk.
You and the other guests are soon standing on the front lawn looking back into the door. The silverware person looks back stoically and slowly shuts the door. As the door latches, all the lights in the house go out and the sound from the music and vacuum cleaner cease. You wait for what happens next.
Nothing happens next. There is no bow, no encore, no explanation. The guests applaud and scream and hoot, but to no avail. It’s over.
Fo you food-minded folks, here’s what we served at the dinners. Menu 1 and Menu 2 were each for different shows.
- Drinks – Hibiscus Cocktail (Alcoholic Version and Non-Alcoholic Version) | Boozy Egg Nog AKA “Opossum Milk”
- Appetizer – Spring Pea Guacamole topped with Wasabi Peas, served with Corn tortilla chips
- Salad – Roasted red and golden beet salad with goat cheese and field greens
- Entree – Vegan Seitan Stew served with Sliced Baguette
- Dessert – Pumpkin and Toffee chip trifle
- Drink – Homemade Rumchata AKA “Opossum Milk”
- Appetizer – Spicy Szechuan TVP Lettuce Wraps
- Salad – Shaved beet and carrot salad with Curry dressing and Pistachios
- Entree – Thai Red Curry Chickpea Stew and white rice