Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou is a Cajun restaurant in Springfield, MA. When my friends and I asked for walking directions from the Sheraton Hotel, the concierge expressed surprise. We interpreted his response as skepticism that three women would rather walk than take a cab so we persevered, got the directions (which were quite straightforward), and set out happily, looking forward to a drink and a nice dinner. It wasn’t long before the pretty retail facades and business addresses gave way to empty lots and corner bars, but it was still light out and we were enjoying each other’s company so it was all good. Then we walked past the bus station and turned right. Now we could see the YMCA down the street. We began to understand why the concierge thought we might want a cab.
We knew the restaurant didn’t take reservations. We didn’t know they didn’t have a liquor license. There didn’t seem to be any other choices in the neighborhood so we decided to stay and wait for a table. We joined a line of people who were leaning against the wall. The guy in front of us was wearing a Columbia Teacher’s College baseball cap. V. went to Columbia for grad school. She made friends with him and his party while D. and I entertained each other.
At one point, she turned back to us and said, “Tim thinks we should take a cab back to the hotel.” She also told us what he recommended for dinner. Apparently he was a regular, as, it turned out, were most of the other diners.
When we were seated, perusing the menu, I noticed that on the floor at the next table was a cardboard box with an untouched six-pack of Mikes Classic Margarita. The table was scattered with crumpled napkins and empty glasses. It was clear that they were finished and getting ready to pay the bill. Before I could lose my nerve I leaned over and said, “Excuse me, if you guys are done, would you consider selling me that six-pack?” Even for me that felt a little ballsy, but I was never going to see these people again so I figured what the hell. The guy closest to the six-pack picked it up and brought it to our table.
“Take it,” he said. “It’s yours.”
Now I was making friends. Our benefactor was eager to share tourist tips with us. He was bullish on a local bar, even recommended a particular drink, but urged us to take a cab. Et tu, Margarita Guy? Why did everyone want us to take a cab?
Another guy at his table joined the conversation. He told me that he and his wife had just moved back to South Hadley because his wife had gotten a job as the Director of Communications for one of the area colleges. When I told him we were all children’s book writers, in town for a conference, he mentioned that she had a blog, The Musing Mama. I visited her blog and was surprised to find that she’s a good writer. I read a few posts and bookmarked the site. I’m now mulling over a new way to promote my blog, a six-pack for each new subscriber. It might work…
Back at Chef Wayne’s, when Tim was getting ready to leave, he and his friend, Louis, came to our table to say good-bye. Tim reminded us to take a cab.
I said, “What’s with the cab thing? It’s not that long a walk.”
He replied, “This is Springfield. Do you know what the murder rate is?”
Actually, no, I thought.
His friend nodded and said, “I’m a court officer. I hear a lot. Take a cab.”
When we were done with dinner, we gave the three remaining margaritas to a group that had just been seated and called a cab.
At Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou the food is delicious, the atmosphere is funky, and the people are great. Next time you’re in Springfield, check it out. But BYOB ─ and take a cab.