Out to Lunch

By Erika Hoffman

My college roomie from 45 years ago asked me to lunch to celebrate my birthday.

“Anywhere you wanna go,” Cora wrote.

“You pick.”

She suggested our usual haunts.

“Let’s go somewhere new” I said, recalling an Internet article stating that older folks should vary routines and not frequent the same old supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants. Yet, I know why “seniors” do that; it’s because they feel comfortable at those familiar places, and besides, it’s harder to get lost if you know the route.

Cora suggested a place near Research Triangle Park where her son used to take new IBM hires. She made the 12:30 reservation. I plugged the address into my Garmin which wouldn’t take the exact address. So, I improvised, pecking in the closest numbers it would take – a nearby strip mall. From there, I navigated to the restaurant’s overflowing parking lot. As I approached, polite men in suits held the door open. Every table, booth and bar stool was occupied. Thank goodness Cora had a reservation – something I’m too disorganized to ever do.

The hostess escorted me to a bank of seats in the back, near a waiter’s station. Promptly a tall, young, Hispanic waiter approached asking me for my drink order.

“Water,” I said. Did he look faintly disappointed?

Cora came. The waiter popped up to fill her drink order.

“Water, too.”

We blabbed. We sipped. Soon, he appeared to take our food orders. After which, Cora slid over a gaily decorated present and a card. “The gift is an Oprah pick; the card I found months ago. When I saw it, it just looked like us.”

I opened the pink envelope to see a photo of two elderly ladies standing behind a nude male statue with one of the old dears fondling the statue’s butt.

“Who’s who” I asked. We laughed.

“We could be either one.” She then added, “You told me you had a funny story about visiting your grandkids last month”

“My son and wife are trying to potty train their toddler. Although she’s got half of it down, she refuses to poop in the potty. Because I know her parents don’t approve of her having candy, I took her aside and in a conspiratorial tone, I said, ‘Georgia, if you poop in the potty, Ama will give you candy.’”

Cora nodded.

My granddaughter stared at my pants’ pockets. “Honey I don’t have it on me, but if you poop, I’ll climb to the third floor where my suitcase is and get it.”

‘Ama, can I have some now” she asked. I knew dinner would be served soon, and her other grandma was coming to prepare it, so I hurriedly clambered up those many steps and returned, clandestinely slipping her the Andes green mints, while reminding her of her promise with a wink and a nod.

Soon Georgia’s other grandma arrived with a bag full of groceries, a rice cooker, and a lot of energy. Unlike me, her other grandma does everything in an accomplished way. She’s a whiz at designing, landscaping, travel-planning, event-organizing, managing a business. You name it. Did I mention she’s a professionally-degreed architect, a CEO, a stylish dresser, well-groomed, toned, thin and …a gourmet chef? Perfect.

Half-heartedly, I offered to help. In the interest of good cuisine, I figured I’d better stay away. I joined her husband playing with the grandkids in the den while ordering my own husband to fetch the bottles of wine, Maxville, we’d toted with us. I prayed it would be tasty because my son’s New York in-laws are also wine connoisseurs, unlike us, who forget to sniff the Kirkland corks.

Yet, I’m not going to blame the denouement on my consumption of the delicious wine, which paired nicely with the seafood dish prepared by the competent grandma.

‘Eat more,’ insisted my son’s mother-in-law. My husband hustled over for seconds or was that thirds he scooped out of the large wok?

‘Erika, you’re not eating enough! Don’t you like my cooking”

‘It’s delicious!’ then I turned to her husband, ‘Tom, you’re lucky to have a wife who can cook well and do it seemingly effortlessly.’

‘But I have no dessert to serve you. I like something sweet,’ she complained with a pout.

After another guzzle of wine and before I knew it, I blurted, ‘Well. I have candy upstairs. I’ll get it –if you poop in the potty.’”

***

“You didn’t say that!” Cora asked.

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“How did everyone react”

“Stony silence. Georgia looked at me, half-smiling. My son laughed. My husband choked. Finally, Georgia’s other grandma said, ‘I have no problem pooping.’”

Cora and I chortled. The waiter appeared.

“May I ask for a doggie bag for my left-over pork” I asked.

“You’re the birthday girl. You need dessert!” said Cora. She ordered carrot cake; I ordered chocolate pot de crème. My only glass of water was gone so I asked for more.

While we chatted, he brought the desserts. He then mingled amiably with young folks nearby. We finished desserts. Again, I asked him for a refill of water. He left and returned with the bill. No water. Cora placed her credit card in the black folder which he then collected. I repeated my request for water.

He brought the bill which she filled in but no pitcher. The guy recommenced to jawboning with the neighboring table. I was parched. “Excuse me,” I said. “Could I have some water” I pointed to my glass. He abruptly strode off. My friend, always a generous tipper, remarked, “I thought it was a good tip I left him.”

He returned and filled our glasses to the brim, almost overflowing mine. I commented cheerily, “That chocolate pot de crème really left me thirsty.” I smiled.

He stopped pouring and stared at us. Strangely.

“You don’t understand,” he declared. “By explaining yourself to me, you are creating a GOVERNING DYNAMIC! I am your waiter. It’s up to me to just get you water. No need to explain about being thirsty. The waiter in the back hall could have gotten your water, but I’ll take care of you as long as you are here…” Cora and I sat dumbfounded, still, mute, not laughing for the first time, and definitely not making eye contact with the lanky waiter looming over us. He left but lurked nearby at the waiter’s station.

“Geesh,” I whispered, “What was that about”

“He must be taking a class in some school and just learned that term.”

“We’re one of the last here; you think we’re holding him up”

“My son said the food was good but didn’t mention anything about the service.”

As we left, I asked, “Is he following us” She laughed… but looked back. “Let me drive you to your car since it’s parked so far away – and who knows where lurking Lurch, – our intimidating, angry, bizarre server is”

Going out with one’s old buddy for lunch can be a barrel of fun, a lot of laughs and chuckles, but who knew there’d be a Twilight Zone dollop of weird waiter horror thrown in as a side dish? Yet, it did make my 60-plus-some birthday memorable! Always a silver lining!

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman collected many of her travel stories and published them in a book called Erika’s Take on Travel. It’s on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

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17 Responses to “Out to Lunch”

  1. Eileen Williams says:

    Wow, this is entertaining on so many levels! Candy for going to the bathroom, too funny (especially extending the enticement to the other grand). However, the waiter is scary?! Happy Birthday, always enjoy you humor!

  2. Jamie Weeks says:

    Great story, Erika!! Thank you for starting my new year with a laugh.

  3. Sheila Mann says:

    Fun story. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Lois Bartholomew says:

    Well told, Erika.

  5. Nancy says:

    Wow.
    Really?
    Pass the mints, please.
    Everything is better with chocolate.

  6. Very entertaining piece! Love your sense of humor! Your description of the other grandmother made me laugh and I could identify with it! Can’t wait for February’s story!

  7. Claudia Frost says:

    Funny story with several twists & turns to start my day. The waiter still puzzles me. Weird guy. As a senior who always drinks a lot of water at restaurants, I wouldn’t have been as patient as you were. Let’s have lunch there sometime and see if the same waiter is still there. Did chocolate in exchange for “poop in the potty” work?

  8. Cora Brown says:

    Yep! I’ll vouch for the weirdness of our waiter that day. Our lunches are always as entertaining as your stories, Erika! Keep ’em coming!

  9. Maureen O'Brien says:

    Beautifully executed, Erika, funny and quirky. A definite what’s coming next quality!

    As always.

  10. Dallas Swan says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this story. I felt like I was sitting across from the author and she was sharing a fun story. I loved it. Thanks

  11. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story made me laugh.

  12. Evie says:

    I was hooked from the start of your story and enjoyed it all the way through. It had humor and wit! Happy birthday!

  13. Ann Goebel says:

    Erika, your stories are always engaging from start to finish. They give me a lift and a dose of humor. “Out To Lunch” is no exception. More, please!

  14. Rose Ann says:

    You always make me laugh! Thanks for sharing your tips on potty training and how to impress the relatives. Priceless:)

  15. I have two grandsons who are ready to start potty training. Thanks for the tip!

  16. Claire Walker says:

    Erika, loved the story about the in-laws and the chocolate mints. Sometimes it’s so hard to get water! Happy birthday and thank you for the laughs.

  17. Andrea Phillips says:

    Enjoyable!

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