My dear BlogHer roommate Suzanne was kind enough to invite me out to pizza dinner with a big group of people, including her parents.
I told Suzanne I was skeptical of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, since I am a fan of the thin-crust NY-style pie.
Suzanne arranged the logistics - 11 of us would walk the mile down to Geno's East and meet her folks there, where we would all partake of the glories of Chicago pizza. We had a pleasant stroll through Chicago's Magnificent Mile, chatting and enjoying the perfect weather.
Then we got to Geno's. It is one of those "You have to go there while you are in Chicago" kind of places, and there were at least 100 people standing in line. Suzanne's mother was waiting patiently for us to arrive, and her father not-so patiently (he is a clone of my dad, I swear).
Upon seeing the crowd, I immediately had a flashback to a horrifying 3-hour meal I had spent trapped in the Pope room at a Buca di Beppo, wedged between two of my ex-BFs relatives that I barely knew, screaming pleasantries above the din and eating disgusting, greasy (albeit NY-style) pizza.
I said I needed to use the bathroom and when I walked in, it got even worse. Geno's East is painted black inside, and covered with visual noise of graffiti and it was hot and crowded and LOUD.
Suddenly the past three days of constant sensory stimulation tipped over the edge from fun into *whoop-whoop AAAAUUUUUGAHHHHHH RED ALERT RED ALERT* territory.
I sat on the toilet with my elbows on my knees, thinking about facing that noisy restaurant, pressing my fingertips into my eyeballs, trying not to freak out. Failing. Freaking out. Gasping for air.
My inner introvert came charging out of her closet, and it wasn't pretty.
I finally breathed enough that I thought I could hold it together. I came out of the bathroom after a long, long time. Then I stumbled though the zoo of the restaurant again and went outside to the line.
I walked up to our group and blurted, "Um, I don't think I can do this."
I'm sure my face was all red and blotchy and attractive like it gets when I am upset.
Count Mockula's dear mother grabbed my arm and said gently "Are you ok?"
Oh gah no. That sent me right over the edge. My chin began to tremble and my eyes filled and I started stammering excuses and then everyone said "Oh, it's ok, we understand," and all that kindness and love just made it WORSE. Full-on crying. The ugly cry.
Wiping my eyes on my shirt, I fled down the street alone, taking big gulps of air, simultaneously horrified at my behavior and overjoyed at having escaped Hell.
About 12 blocks later, I was sitting outside at a little wrought-iron table all by myself, sipping French wine and eating a salad topped with marble-sized chunks of blue cheese. Breathing. Relieved.
Here's Liz Rizzo's photo of the dinner. Oooh, scary, right? Oh, I wish I could be normal.