Every time we've eaten dinner here -- twice before -- we've had the same server who seems to be a holdover from the Supper Club era. The experience always starts with a few minor gaffes that expand, roll and build up into something like a French farce. It's not annoying. It sprints into this zone where you just can't wait to see what happens next. Will she forget to place the order? Will she disappear for an hour and a half? Will she charge the wrong meal to our credit card? The suspense!
"Can I start you off with anything to drink?"
We both look up from our menus and into her face. We simultaneously shoot each other a look for half a blink, like, "game on." We both look back at her and say we're sticking with water.
"That's her, right?" I ask.
"Yeah," Chuck says.
I pull out my phone. I'm going to time her for the sake of curiosity.
Meanwhile about six tables away, a waiter is arranging a light behind a table and the hostess is taking a photograph of the diners. The guy leaves the booth, goes down on a knee and the woman leans forward and hugs him.
"I just saw people get engaged," I tell Chuck.
But I wonder if it is even possible that the woman was surprised, what with the light adjustment and the photographer ...?
It feels like I should applaud or show support in some way, but to do so will reveal my gawking.
I saw a couple get engaged at Red Lobster once. It struck me as perhaps the tackiest thing I had ever seen. They each had a yard-long beverage in front of them and a basket of cheddar biscuits. And this was all happening like a millimeter from my elbow. I was catching back splash from the lobster butter.
The woman at the table next to this couple gets up to congratulate them. Look at the ring. I think marriage is a strange fraternity and not everyone makes it look like a luxurious vacation at Sandals Cancun. But, whatever.
I order salmon, Chuck gets the stuffed meatloaf and it all arrives promptly and without a layer of burn so maybe this night is going to be farce free, which is a little disappointing.
"Wait a minute," I say. "He's proposing again?"
The guy's back down on his knee. This time a server is taking the photo.
"Did that work?" he asks. "Because we can reenact it again."
And I wonder if I was duped the first time I saw this. Was that a reenactment, too? What's it going to be like to flip through that Facebook album in 50 years.
"This is the day we got engaged. I'm not actually proposing here. I'm reenacting proposing," he says to his grandkids as they scroll through their wirelessly interconnected brain internet.
My food is good. Chuck's is good, too. It's on top of a very finely ground potato mash. It looks like a pureed soup or grits.
The waitress returns to take away our plates. She knocks something off the table and it hits my bench and lands on the floor.
"Oh!" she says. "I'm so sorry!"
"What was it?" I ask.
"Oh," she says. "Well, if you don't know then I'll just wait to get it later."
I sense it was the small metal container of whipped butter.
Chuck pays and we leave.
"So that wasn't terrible at all," I say as we walk to the elevator.
"Well, except the part where she almost ruined your dress with butter, and another thing," he says.
"What?" I ask.
When she dropped off Chuck's food she leaned inches from him said: "Here's your meatloaf" blowing a long breathy wind through the F.