After Julie’s speech and festival appearance, we dined at Todd English’s restaurant Olives at 1600 K ST NW in downtown DC. They have a great menu and I was looking forward to dining there for the first time. I ordered the Potato Gnocchi, Lauren and Judy both had the Butternut Squash Tortelli, Ellen had the Herbed Ricotta Ravioli, and Julie Morgenstern went for the local flavor enjoying the Wood Grilled Maryland Rockfish.
While waiting for our baked vanilla soufflé for dessert, tragedy struck. I had requested a private table, so they placed us on the upper level near a large window. The wall-sized window spanned 5′ wide by a towering 12′ tall. Normally it would have been a lovely place to dine, yet suddenly, we heard a loud frightening sound as 60 square feet of glass shattered and rained down on our table as if it was a giant web trying to capture each of us.
As the window made impact, first on Julie, it shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. We each dove for cover, sprawled across the dining room floor, which was coated in glass. Dinner went from lovely dining to a scene out of a war movie.
In complete chaos everyone was talking and shouting. “Were we being shot at?” “Did you hear a gun?” “What the hell just happened?” “Is everyone OK?” “Are you hurt?” “Oh my GOD, you’re bleeding, call an ambulance!”
There was no car that raced away, there was no masked man running down 16th street. How did this happen? Julie’s and Judy’s clothes were torn from the glass, individuals were bleeding, everyone was covered in fine glass dust. Judy somehow lost a shoe in the commotion and Lauren found it nearby. Before Lauren had picked out the glass, the restaurant bus staff was there with brooms and dustpans cleaning up the disaster. Although I was covered in glass dust, I was not injured by the flying glass. I collected everyone’s belongings from our crushed table and moved to a safer area. The women went downstairs to tend to their injuries while waiting for the paramedics.
Before the police arrived and before the paramedics sauntered in, the glass was swept away. The general manager of the restaurant brought me incident forms to complete. I was filling in the blurred details when one of the dining room staff tapped me on the shoulder. He was there with two other staff each carrying the baked soufflés we ordered with our dinner. I was dumbfounded. I told them to get out of my face, I had friends scraping glass out of their wounds, I’m filling out injury reports and you want me to eat dessert? Please!
The Metropolitan Police Officer showed up finally, spoke only to the manager and left. The manager said he left because there was no crime and nobody went to the hospital. How could the officer determine there was no crime without speaking to any of us directly or investigation what happened?
The manager wasn’t even in the dining room when the window imploded. We insisted the policeman return to take a report. Was the restaurant trying to cover up something? Does Todd English have a hit out on him? Is someone lashing out against Olives? Why was the millions of pieces of glass cleaned up so quickly? Why did the police officer leave before talking with the injured parties? Something very fishy was going on, and it wasn’t Julie’s Rockfish.
Meanwhile, Julie missed her train, the police still had not returned, and Ellen had to return to the hotel to obtain new clothes for Julie that were not shredded and covered in glass. About an hour after his first appearance, the cop returned. He acted put off that we were asking for a report. He said windows blow up all the time and that there was no crime. Even an incident report was asking too much. We were lucky, someone could have been seriously injured – yet he couldn’t be bothered by filling out a few forms. Perhaps it was close to the end of his shift?
After some discussion, we decided it was smarter for Julie to catch the 8:45 PM train back to NYC instead of twisting the the arm of the officer and getting the restaurant staff to cooperate. Neither Judy, Lauren or myself looked presentable for the group photo I had hoped to capture with our VIP dinner guest. Standing in the rain under an umbrella, Julie insisted she sign our books. Stilled dazed from the entire ordeal, Julie was extremely gracious and kind. My only regret is we didn’t hear more from her directly about her books. Since Maybe our mastermind group needs to meet in NYC one week to finish our conversation!
The best one liner of the evening goes to Judy Parkins, who said it was a good thing she wore Spanx, they saved her ass twice because they kept the glass out of her ass.
I went back to the restaurant the next evening to give the waitress a tip. Unfortunately they were closed; they are normally open on Sundays. Judy called me on Monday with her theory on how the window broke. She remembered the front door slammed shut each time it was opened. The entire entryway would shake. She believes the constant vibrations finally compromised the window and it just happened to shatter while we were at dinner. On Tuesday I was booked solid with clients, so Judy went to the restaurant to try to give the waitress her gratuity. The front door was propped wide open. After a bit of investigating, she learned from the restaurant manager from Olives that previous attempts had been made to repair the door, yet it still wasn’t fixed. Something about there “not being money in the budget.” I have a feeling now that five people suffered emotional trauma and two received serious injuries, they’ll cough up money to repair the door properly. Someone could have easily loosed an eye, had a serious concussion or even been killed by the impact caused by their negligence.
All in all it was a very stressful evening. I knew we might have some lively conversation, but I never imagined there would be blood! I’m very relieved no one was seriously hurt and I’m grateful for Julie’s patience and good humor. I hope the restaurant is permanently fixing the problem. It’s certainly a lesson in the importance of regular maintenance, good design and quality workmanship.
Fortunately I have an excellent system for keeping track of my receipts. I’ll be delivering a dry cleaning bill in short order! After ruining our important dinner meeting, don’t you think Olives or Todd English owes us some compensation? I’m thinking three round trip tickets on Amtrak to NYC, dinner at Olives NYC, and a night’s stay at the W Hotel Union Square where the restaurant is located. Leave your comments below and tell me what you think. So far, we’ve not been offered any compensation for our troubles. If you know Todd, please tell him about this disaster! I’m sure he’d like to know. I’ll keep you updated.