It’s two years later: My brother-in-law, Mark, has been forced to trim staff and I am let go from the family business. This comes as no surprise. My efforts there have not been producing fruit for several months and I am very frustrated but unable to make the obvious call. When he finally does, I am relieved. But Mark is a very loyal friend and suffers such guilt that he decides, as a grand farewell, he will treat me and Nancy, a co-worker who is retiring, to an evening of fine dining at The Deep Cove Chalet.
I prepare for my rematch with the Snooty Waiter by dressing in a suit and tie and, this time, I use deodorant. I’m no longer driving the 1994 Ford Aerostar. I’ve upgraded to a 2004 Honda SUV, which I wash and polish and scrape candy off the kids’ seats and, strangely, wipe tongue tracks from their windows until it looks near new. Smoothly, I pull in between a jet-black Jaguar and a fire-red Porsche Boxster, confident in the knowledge that my car is as shiny as the ones next to it and that no car is immune to a squeaky fan belt.
After we’re seated by the hostess, our waiter introduces himself and I am a little disappointed to find that it is an entirely different individual from last time; this one very young, but looking far less snooty.
Waiter: Would anyone care for a drink, to start?
Mark: I’ll have the 25-year Bowmore.
Waiter: Excellent choice, sir. And you, madam?
Nancy: I’d like to try a glass of the Chartron-Trébuchet Chardonnay
Waiter: My pleasure. And you, sir?
ME: What kind of mixed drinks do you have?
Waiter: All of the classics, sir.
ME: Great! I’d like a Slippery Nipple.
His eyebrow arches so high it disappears beneath his hairline. “I’m sure. But, as I said, we only serve the classics.”
ME: Ah. Ok, then: Blue Hawaiian.
Waiter (sighing through his nostrils): The classics, sir.
He’s suddenly become much snootier than his years. Is he even old enough to drink? Has he ever actually tasted alcohol? I briefly consider how I might put him in his place by asking how much he makes, then remember that I’m here because I no longer have a job.
I don’t dare take a third stab at ordering something I actually want. Instead, I say, “How about a glass of the house white,” casually, as if I’m not in the habit of purchasing wine by the glass, pizza by the slice or dental work in installments. But even I know that “house white” is a cop-out; a white flag.
“Of course,” he says as if he’d expected that, all along. No “my pleasure” or “excellent choice” or even “sir.” I can read his mind: “No matter how remarkable the menu, a chimp will choose the banana.”
Why did he have to go and think that? My lack of alcoholic sophistication had been exposed—no need to underline it with a parting shot. Oh, you want to bring it do you, punk? Well, consider it brung! I’ve done well in life. I have assets. I may not know much about liquor but I can apply for credit to burn…
“You know what? I’m exceptionally thirsty, tonight…” I lean back in the chair looking out the window, apparently surveying the manicured lawn and the beach, beyond, as if only minimally aware of the waiter’s presence. “Bring me the whole box,” I say while stirring the air with my hands in a whimsical, dismissive gesture, as though ordering wine were a dreary formality.
“I’m speechless,” he declares, then walks away.
Yes! That’s one for the primates!
I smile like Bond, James Bond. “No doubt, at these prices, they don’t get many people who order a whole box.”
“No doubt,” says Nancy.
My wine arrives. It’s in a bottle, not a box. I pretend to not be surprised or disappointed, but then I notice that it isn’t even a screw top and can’t refrain from shaking my head a little and uttering a soft “tsk-tsk.” The table has been turned, yet again. This Snooty Waiter is wilier than I’d calculated. But if he thought that most of the bottle would be wasted, then he, too, has miscalculated. I’m healthier than most my age, 190 pounds, and am used to stronger stuff. I don't need a screw cap. I can drink the entire bottle. I do wish I liked wine.
Two hours later, when we are leaving, I surprise the waiter by referring to him as “my frère from another mère!” while I have him clamped in a bear hug. “I have enjoyed our time together, mon amigo!” I say, pressing the entire contents of my wallet into his palm, insisting, before he can protest, that he take it all. “Farewell and bon frites!” I am waving and blowing kisses to all the other patrons as my friends pull me out the door.
At noon the next day, I stumble from my bed to the bathroom. It’s while brushing my tongue that I recall snippets of the previous night. I rush to examine my wallet and discover that, thankfully, it still contains the five-dollar bill, however, eighty-five cents worth of Canadian Tire money, a McDonald’s coupon for free hash browns, and a receipt from Super Cuts are missing.
“Another one for the primates,” I whisper, very softly.
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