A really smooth character would hide the bill in his hand, extend his arm into a shake with a sly nod, and be seated now, considering appetizers.
Instead, we’re waiting in a corner at Eli Cannon’s, having fun, sure, but thinking we’ll need to leave without eating; it’s a work night, and it’s getting late.
They had said a half-hour wait. Fine with us. We ordered a beer and found a spot. The half hour was long gone. We ordered another beer, not typical Tuesday night behavior.
We pestered the host. My husband pondered whether he should duke him for a table. It’s a cool-guy move that my dad’s generation could pull off. Think Frank Sinatra greasing palms in Vegas. My husband’s got some moves, but duking maitre d’s isn’t one of them.
In line for the bathroom, I glared for a while at two men sipping water and playing on their smartphones. They didn’t budge from their table.
One-and-a-half hours after we entered, we were still waiting. It was long past the time for the “May I help you riff.” I parked myself next to the host. When he stepped away from his podium, I peeked at his notes to see where we were in the queue.
I found myself on his list and read: “Short. Ponytail. Wearing black.” My essence, distilled to four words.
He came back and caught me snooping.
“Oh, so that’s all I am to you? ‘Short. Ponytail. Wearing black,’” I said. He blanched like he was caught with his hand in the till.
I tried to help him out.
“Don’t worry. I know I’m short,” I said. “You could have really told it like it is and written, ‘Overweight. Middle-aged. No fashion sense.’”
This did not help at all and, in fact, mortified him. I slunk away.
More time passed.
A new woman came up, and he told her it would be a half hour.
“A half hour?” she frowned. “I thought we could get right in on a Tuesday night. Well, OK, we’ll wait in the bar.” She walked away.
I leaned over his shoulder, as if I were reading what he was writing about her, and said, “Blonde. Preppy. Passive-aggressive.”
He turned around stone-faced and greeted me like he didn’t know who I was: “Randy, party of two?” He led me to our table and said, “I can finally get you out of my hair.”
I was deep in an anxious state when my husband got back from the bathroom. I told him my joke about the blonde. It was funny, right? Damn, it was the best joke of my career.
The host came by and asked if our spacious table was all right. He chatted with us, friendly as can be, even smiled at his admission that he had liked my joke. Not offended at all, he had smoothly one-upped me.
Meal finished, I gave our host a friendly wave goodbye.
My husband shook his hand and duked him ten dollars.
Update: On a subsequent visit to Eli Cannon’s, Andrew allowed me to take his photo and identify him by name. Thanks, Andrew.
This is part of a series, Scene from a Memoir.