The first time, I had no idea what they were talking about. They told me it was about the new restaurant, the Virtual Reality CafÃƒÂ©, that was all the rage. All I heard were good things, and some of them just seemed too out there to be true. After a while I got tired of all the noise and decided to check it out for myself.
Being the natural skeptic that I am, I was fully prepared to be let down. After all, what could this place really be but just another theme restaurant, long on diner food and hype? Not really any different from the Motown CafÃƒÂ©, Fashion CafÃƒÂ©, Hard Rock CafÃƒÂ©, Planet Hollywood, or any of the others, once you scratch the surface.
I followed the directions I was given, noting as I did so that I was getting further and further away from where restaurants would typically be located. By the time I got to the semirural area on the outskirts of town, I was sure I had either taken a wrong turn or else I’d been given the wrong directions. Just about when I was ready to turn around and retrace my steps, I came across a parking lot full of cars. Next to the lot there was a tiny building about the size of a tollbooth, really nothing more than a cement shed.
I was sure that this couldn’t be it, but just to be thorough I went up to it, and sure enough there was a ceramic tile sign on the front door reading “VR CafÃƒÂ©.” I thought this was either some kind of joke, or else just a pickup point. Maybe they were keeping the hype and mystery going by picking up prospective diners here in buses with blacked-out windows, so no one would know where the restaurant really was.
Right below the doorbell, there was a small shelf
with a stack of what appeared to be tennis-style visors with attached eyepieces. “Please keep visor on at all times while inside,” said the sign next to the shelf. I pushed the door open, and saw just what I had expected to see: the field outside the window on the back wall of the little booth.
Out of curiosity, I walked around to the back of the booth, and saw the field across the street from the booth through that same back window. *This can’t possibly be it,* I thought, but as a joke I went back to the front and donned one of the visors.
To this day I don’t know what the deal is with those visors, but with that one I looked inside the door and saw, through the door, what looked like a catering-hall lobby. I raised the visor from my eyes and saw the same forlorn booth. What I saw with and without the visor just didn’t seem possible, but I reasoned, *I came out here to review a restaurant, and if this is what I have to do in order to do so, then so be it.*
Wearing the visor, I went inside, and the first thing I noticed was a lively party going on in a room directly across from the door I had just walked through. Sala de Salsa (Salsa Room), read the sign over the door. There was a staircase right outside the room, leading to other dining areas upstairs and downstairs. There was also a corridor that stretched forward of the door I had just walked through. *Impossible,* I thought. *How can that corridor extend past the front of the building?* But, somehow, it did. And there was another one, that extended past the right wall… well, of the right wall of the cement hut I saw before I put on that visor. I wanted to take it off, but when I reached up to do just that, somehow… it wasn’t there! I have no clue how they managed that, but the visor wasn’t there anymore.
I was so busy gawking at those corridors that I never noticed anyone coming up to me from behind until I heard a voice ask, “Can I help you, sir?” I turned around and, so help me, I let out a yelp that could wake the dead. Because there in front of me was a filled-out dress, hovering in space, like there was a nicely curved female body in it. But there was no one there.
I mean, she was there, wearing a sequined, strapless royal-blue party dress, with sheer blue stockings and tasteful jewelry, but all I could see was the dress filled out like there was someone in it, along with hovering accessories, but I couldn’t see the woman! I stood there and stared at the dress’ torso area in disbelief, until the voice asked me again, “Sir, can I help you?”
“Um, yeah,” I said intelligently, trying mightily to compose myself, and failing badly. “I-I–”
The voice chuckled. “I’m guessing this is your first time here.”
“Y-yes, it is,” I said, glad I could finally put a sentence together. “I’m sorry I’m acting so silly…”
“Not to worry, sir,” the voice said, as the dress began to move in the direction of the stairs. “Just follow me up the stairs and I’ll show you to a table.”