We’ve waited for it and it’s finally here — patio season! Cold beer, sunglasses and getting more buzzed with each inch of the setting sun. We’ve spent the entire winter romanticizing what it will be like when we can say to the hostess, “We’ll sit outside, please.” But let’s remember that sitting outside isn’t always a perfect summer dream. Here’s why:
While dining outside may not look like the Alfred Hitchcock film, sometimes it’s not far off. A bird doesn’t know the difference between that crumb that fell off your Croque Monsieur and the bits of stale loaf that the bearded lady in the park throws. And it never feels good to indulge in a chicken sandwich while one of its feathered brethren watches you eat it. Let’s also not forget the possibility of an unexpected dollop of bird sauce landing on your plate from above during your meal.
Let’s be honest, many patios are nothing more than fenced-in pieces of dirty sidewalk plopped beside the road. And roads have cars, and cars have exhaust pipes that churn out filthy, grey vapours that infiltrate all your senses and get in the way of you deciphering the nuanced notes of your Pinot Grigio. There can be traffic jams and you can bet the VW bus-full of hippies idling beside you hasn’t had their emissions checked recently (but you may want to inhale the smoke coming out of the cracked window if you want to forget your patio problems entirely).
You’re just sitting down for a much-deserved post-work libation, but the guy at the table beside you has been boozing since noon. He’s sunburned, his head is bobbing, and the wait staff keep reminding him to put his shirt and shoes back on. What seems cute and funny when you first sit down won’t be so entertaining when he asks for some of your fries and then falls face-first into your shared guacamole. Avoid making the same mistake he did by moderating your bevvies on the patio and saving your real debauchery for when you’re home alone with your own guacamole.
Patio shade has less to do with the sun and everything to do with trees, umbrella placement and adjacent buildings. Some people love it, others hate it and negotiating who sits where, how you place your umbrella, how you ask your neighbours to place their umbrellas for optimal sun/shade and moving around according where the sun sits in the sky can be a tedious task. Sit inside. There are no umbrellas there, and if someone misses the heat that much they can go put their face under the hand-dryer in the bathroom.
5. Rain and thunderstorms
Surprise hail. Freak snowstorms. Tornadoes. You get the idea. Mother Nature is an unpredictable vixen and you could be sun-drenched, nose-deep in a Bellini one second and soaking the next. In a light shower, that umbrella might protect you if you’re lucky enough to have one, but nothing will protect you from a torrential flash-storm except a roof. And when you run inside, clutching your rain-diluted cocktail, don’t expect anyone to share their tables with you. They had the sense to check the weather forecast before they decided where to sit.
6. Human exhaust
Also known as smoke. Laws vary by municipality, but even if smoking on a particular patio is illegal, it’s generally legal to smoke on the sidewalk right next to you. And smokers love summertime because they can sit beside you and smoke instead of having to go outside like a pariah. Pretty soon you’re 10 minutes into a conversation with a guy at the adjacent table who bummed a smoke from your friend, and he’s telling you about how when he finally quits smoking, he’s finally going to write that novel.
7. Rude servers
Listen, I’d be rude too if the weather called for low temperatures and possible rain, so my manager only staffed two servers on a 200-person patio. You, of course, are the picture of kindness, but the lady at the table beside you just ordered her Caesar with “not too much horseradish, half a rim of celery salt and clamato juice that’s not too too clammy”. I’d worry that whatever gross thing that server adds to her drink to punish her might accidentally splash into your drink — if it ever comes.
You left work early and sat down at 4 p.m. wearing a tank top, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat — and you thought you owned the world. Cut to four hours later when the sun has left the sky and you’re curling inside of yourself, wearing a cardigan that might as well be made of gauze. Menopausal women will understand what that change in temperature feels like, and the rest of us know what kind of of hell we have to look forward to.
You’ve had a hard day. You deserve something icy, sweet and preferably vodka-based to reward yourself. Guess what? Bees and flies have had a hard day too, what with all that flying, and they’re going straight for your Cosmopolitan. Swat all you want to — they read that as, “welcome to my drink and please invite your friends.” Swat harder and they hear, “I’d really like you to sting me now.” And if one of them happens to land in your drink you’ll have sweet revenge watching it drown, but it will have the last laugh when you have to order a new one.
Plastic furniture is great for Barbie dolls and beaches, and that’s it. Even if you’re dressed for a sexy night on the town, there’s something about sitting in a plastic chair that cheapens the whole thing — even more so if said chair has a beer or liquor logo on it. Try looking sexy-chic as a plastic chair-leg bends beneath you, sending you tumbling to a ground covered in cigarette butts and car exhaust residue. And if that isn’t bad enough, let’s not forget how sweaty legs stick to plastic in the heat, not to mention the possibility of bum sweat pools.