“And finally,” the breathless waitress says, wrapping up her lengthy recitation of the specials before cerebral hypoxia shuts down her conscious mind, “We have sesame encrusted blue fin tuna with wasabi whipped cream and pickled ginger.”
“Wow,” my friend exclaims. “That’s quite a list.”
The pretty waitress gulps down a lungful of air, reoxygenates her brain, and automatically flashes her brilliant faux waiter smile. “Can I get you gentleman anything from the bar?”
“I’ll have a Dirty Ketel One up, please,” I reply.
“I’ll have a Tanqueray and tonic,” my friend says.
“Can I also interest you gentleman in some bottled water?” the waitress asks, upselling enthusiastically. “We have Pellegrino, Panna, Fiji, Vitell…………
“Tap water’s fine,” I say.
The blocked sale momentarily freezes the warmth in the waitress’s eyes. “Yes sir,” she says, quickly dispelling the chill before it reaches her face. “I’ll be right back with your drinks.”
“Don’t tell me you’re on the no bottled water bandwagon now?” my friend asks once the shapely waitress is out of earshot.
“I never drink bottled water when I go out to eat,” I reply. “That’s like ordering orange juice in a diner.”
“Oh,” my friend groans. “I almost forgot about that cheap little move of yours.”
“It comes from concentrate, they charge you a fortune ……”
“But you drink bottled water at home!”
“Never in a restaurant. The markup’s brutal.”
“You’re such a hypocrite,” my friend says. “You pushed bottled water on me when I ate at your restaurant.”
“Of course I did.”
“Trying to take me for a few bucks?”
“I needed to inflate the check. I know what a great tipper you are.”
A few minutes later the waitress returns with our drinks. I order the tuna. My friend orders salmon. When I ask for a wine recommendation the waitress suggests a moderately priced Sauvignon Blanc. I order a South African bottle that’s $20 more and infinitely better.
“That’s an excellent choice sir,” the waitress says.
“I’d rather spend money on wine than water,” I say. “Besides my friend’s paying.”
My friend lets out a disgusted snort.
“Don’t mind him,” he tells the waitress. “He hasn’t been in public since his release.”
“It’s not a release,” I say. “It’s an evening pass. I’ve got to be back before ten.”
“And if you’re late?”
“They send out the hounds.”
The waitress looks at us. “You guys take this act wherever you go?”
“Since 1986,” I reply.
The waitress smiles. “Then you’ve known each other longer than I’ve been alive.”
My friend pretends to stab himself in the heart with his butter knife. I take a long sip of my ice cold martini and smile.
“I think we’ll need another round of drinks in about five minutes.”
“Certainly sir,” the waitress says, a triumphant look gracing her face.
After the waitress leaves my friend mutters, “Smacked down by a college kid.”
“The girl’s got skills,” I admit.
“My daughter’s only eight years younger than that girl.”
“Megan’s what now – eleven?”
“I hate getting older,” my friend says suddenly.
“I don’t think you’d like the alternative.” I reply.
“When you have kids you’ll understand. You’ll want to freeze them at twelve forever.”
I contemplate my martini for a moment. If I was twelve I’d be drinking….bottled water.
“Would you want to be twelve years old forever?”
“Neither does Megan.”
“That’s for sure,” my friend grunts. “She’s already acting like she’s thirty.”
I drain my martini. The waitress brings me another. Every age has its little compensations. Youth has innocence. Adulthood has power. Age has wisdom.
Or so they tell me.