Reservations, Restaurants, and Retirement


A very good friend of mine who preceded me into the Air Traffic Control game once told me that he seldom got to attend a controller retirement because, before Congress changed the law, so few controllers made it to retirement.  The stresses and shift work took their toll, often resulting in controllers losing their medical before reaching the minimum retirement age required of most federal jobs.  Fortunately, that’s no longer the case.  Retirement eligibility for a controller now comes after twenty-five years of pushing tin, or twenty years of total time after reaching age fifty.  I made it just beyond thirty-four years, but nine of those years were as a staff specialist who didn’t pull shifts and who only worked live traffic for some sixteen hours a month for proficiency, but even so I was a rarity as far as longevity in that career went.

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This past Saturday I was honored to attend the controller retirement party of a good friend and a great guy — El Paso controller Dana Reny formerly of Fort Lauderdale Executive Tower and Honolulu CERAP (Center Radar Approach Control — a combined facility performing both en route center and radar approach control functions).  Dana managed to serve his country as a controller for twenty-two years before succumbing to the siren call of another far less stressful life.

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Congratulations on a well-earned retirement, Dana.

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Just how big was this retirement?  So big that it took two restaurants to accommodate it.  Just kidding . . . sort of.    Our first choice was the top-ten nationally rated Cattleman’s Steakhouse at the Indian Cliffs Ranch near Fabens, Texas.  We had no less than two people call ahead for reservations at this remote restaurant located some 35 miles from downtown El Paso, only to be told that reservations were not necessary as the restaurant would be able to accommodate our group no matter when we arrived.  Well, needless to say, they lied.  We showed up at the appointed time — 6:00 P.M. Saturday evening — only to be told that there would be up to a three-hour delay seating our group.

Before I go any further on this I would like to say for the record that Cattleman’s was already far from a favorite of ours, and not because of the long drive.  We’ve been to this establishment perhaps three times in thirty years, and in all that time Ursula has yet to get a decent steak there despite the ridiculous prices.  There are much better steakhouses in the El Paso area that serve tender, actually edible steaks at much more affordable prices.  Nevertheless, we felt it important enough to attend Dana’s retirement that we were willing to give Cattleman’s one last shot.

They blew it.  Big time.

So, our group turned around and headed back toward El Paso after receiving telephonic assurances that the Hayashi Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar (a regional chain) would be able to accommodate our now nomadic party.  Those assurances were less than truthful, as we were advised that we had two party members too many to seat at one grill station.  Two of our group (more good friends of mine) left, ostensibly because of child concerns back home, but I have my suspicions that had the promised seating been available, they would have stayed.

Strike One.

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The assembled guests (now minus two) had their orders taken some half hour after our 6:40 P.M. arrival.  It was good that we had such a fun group, because not one whiff of food arrived at our table for the better part of two hours after our arrival — around 8:30 P.M. — and then only after several complaints had been registered with the wait staff and management.  Well, that’s not quite accurate.  We did get a whiff of food — for orders arriving to the next table/grill station — despite the fact that table had a group when we arrived, went through a thorough cleaning when they left, and had another group seated and being served before even our salads were brought to our table.

Strike Two.

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By now we were all pretty darned hungry.  As a result nearly all of us had ordered appetizers, including sushi rolls.  Yet, despite apparently all the time in the world to get the orders right, they were wrong.  Ursula and I had ordered a shrimp and vegetable tempura appetizer and one sushi roll.  What we got were two sushi rolls — the one we ordered and a shrimp tempura roll . . . and this was after the wait staff attempted to give us someone else’s order.

Strike Three.  You’re out.  We shall probably not be returning to Hayashi despite two previous experiences and food that, while on the expensive side, isn’t bad.  But more on that on Wednesday’s restaurant review of Hayashi.  Until then, if you’re in the mood for this type food I highly recommend that you spend your money (and especially your time) at the vastly superior Koze Teppan Grill on El Paso’s West Side.

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But today’s blog isn’t about the restaurants (than goodness).  It’s about the camaraderie.  And here’s the fun:

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1 Comment

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One response to “Reservations, Restaurants, and Retirement

  1. David K. Williams

    Glad you got to spend time with your buddies. That’s a pretty amazing story. Doesn’t sound like rocket science to schedule reservations. Maybe these restaurants are owned by ex-pilots who finally got the chance to tell controllers where to go? Sorry. Couldn’t resist.