Dating services have always struck me as slightly masochistic. The entire process just seems so emotionally taxing. From what I have witnessed in the restaurant, it is an elongated form of speed dating. An hour to determine if this person could be the one and pursue a relationship; or a grueling hour until it’s over with, just to start it all over again. Make a request for a date, wait to get profiled, wait for a match, schedule a date and so on. Then, you attach the pressure of first impressions and the setting of a romantic dinner- it just seems a bit forced to me.
I’m sure with that scenario in mind, a couple of people created a dating service called, “It’s Just Lunch.” All the factors are still there, but if/when it flops, you can simply dismiss it as just lunch. This particular dating service calls our restaurant and makes blind date reservations for those in search of love, over lunch.
About a half dozen reservations are made a week for love-hungry lunchers through this service. The reservation is always made under “It’s Just Lunch” and the details include names of the people meeting each other. The tables for such dates are always the same; quiet, secluded, and if it were evening terribly romantic. But, it’s just lunch- so it’s not.
Over the years, one naturally begins to recognize names of regular customers and in this case, regular “just lunchers.” Waiting on these tables is always a trip; it’s either completely awkward and silent until you approach the table and suddenly they can’t stop talking…to you, the waiter. Or, it’s the complete opposite and when you approach the table there’s no way of even announcing the specials they’re so into conversation…good or bad.
It was a Wednesday lunch shift and there were two “It’s Just Lunch” reservations made. These reservations were particularly interesting as both reservation details included the names of two women that were to meet each other. One reservation was for 11:30a.m. and the other at 12:15p.m.. Service began and a woman for the first reservation arrived. She was a woman in her mid-fifties of average height, with long ballerina arms and her love of food around her waistline. She wore a sage green blouse and beige linen trousers- a muted palette to showcase her fabulously red patent leather flats. Our hostess led her to the table and she sauntered as she followed her to a table in my section.
As I approached to welcome her, she looked up revealing her face and a bright smile. She had olive skin creased with years of laughter around her eyes and a gap between her two front teeth. Beautiful long hair with ribbons of ivory and ebony made velvet-brown eyes pop; and that day they had a sparkle of excitement as the prospect of meeting her mate neared. I took her drink order, and quickly returned with a pot of hot tea.
The phone was ringing like a fire drill that day and was pounding us down with take-out orders. I had three lines blinking on hold, inducing a mild epilepsy as I mechanically answered and put people on hold. It was nearing mid-day and I picked up the phone and was about to ask them to hold when they pleaded that I didn’t.
“No! It’s just a quick message. I’m supposed to meet someone there at noon today and I need to cancel,” said the woman on the phone.
“Oh,” I responded. “Very well, what’s the name on the reservation?”
“Well, it’s a ‘It’s Just Lunch’ reservation and I haven’t exactly met the person before….so….” she drifted. She was flaking.
“I see, no worries. I’ll let the person know. Thanks!”
I hung up the phone dreading having to relay the news to the incoming reservation, in addition to noticing that my still anxiously waiting it’s-just-luncher in the corner’s date, still hadn’t arrived. Her glow had dimmed and 3 pots of caffeinated tea later, had taken to doing a crossword in one of the free publications on the front desk. Just then, the it’s-just-luncher who had just been stood up telephonically, entered 15 minutes early and was giving her reservation information to the hostess.
Our hostess, who is pretty oblivious to things as it is, was luckily so in the case of this particular reservation. I had just hung up the phone with the flaker when the other had arrived- so she legitimately had no clue (contrary to the norm). The woman who was speaking to the hostess was one I recognized from previous “It’s Just Lunch” reservations. She was one of those regulars who is in constant search for a mate, and had a certain jaded “this ain’t my first rodeo” approach to each lunch date she attended, as she seemed to be quite picky.
Now, if gay men have the term “bear” for a portly man, then lesbians must have one for the female equivalent. Not to say that she was furry, but she was delicately built like a two-legged seal… perhaps that is what they are called, “seal.” Endearing, yet insinuating. She recognized me as I hung up the phone. I smiled and greeted her on today’s pursuit for love.
On this day, our “seal” wore something out of the ordinary. She typically wore blue jeans and a hippie-flowy shirt of any shade of grey, and always wore her ever-faithful Birkenstock’s. I would guess her to be in her late thirties/early fourties with a particular wit that I thought hysterical. In other words, she’s not terribly “politically correct” which may explain her high turnover rate on these dates. Regardless, I found the “seal” to be quite (non-traditionally) charming.
But she didn’t have her usual uniform on that day. She had black denim jeans on and wore a bright red blouse, her ever-faithful Birkenstock’s and had cut her previously shoulder length blonde hair, into a darling little bob. She had a naturally round face and blue almond-shaped eyes that had a certain mischeivous glimmer to them. Silver hoop earrings (two on each ear) dipped just below her short hair, and they jingled like sleigh bells anytime she spoke as she was quite animated when doing so.
Jingling about, she was making small talk with the hostess. I looked at the reservation computer and glanced up to my hyper-caffeinated stood-up date and in an instant made a very risky, arguably unethical decision. Not having the heart to tell the first woman that she had been stood up, and they other that she had just been canceled on, I grabbed the hostess and told her to tend to the “shock and awe” phone situation. The phone diversion distracted her as I erased the early “It’s Just Lunch” reservation. I snagged a wine list and proceeded to walk the “seal” to my (tea)pot head.
The moment I sat the “seal” the woman who had been waiting patiently went from dim to vibrant. Because she had the equivalent of a box of No-Doze via tea, she was very expressive and awake for that matter. A woman who I would have pegged to be reserved, was suddenly using broad hand gestures in her speech. Whether or not this was her typical personality, the “seal” took an immediate liking to her. I suppose liquid courage doesn’t have to be alcoholic.
They order lunch and got to talking…and talking…and talking until it was 3:00p.m., the kitchen was closed and I was looking to leave. I watched the two chatting and from a distance looking much like a muted Italian film. One would be telling the other a story in the most animated way; open-handed, arms fully extending and shaking as the other would through her head back and laugh kicking her leg out the side of the table.
I printed and dropped their check. They promptly paid and I over heard the “seal” suggest a cup of coffee up the street to the other. Knowing that the other woman had already transformed into a hummingbird earlier with the amount of caffeine she had to drink, I never thought that she was going to accept the invitation…but she did. They left the restaurant and went about there way.
Three months later, I was working the bar on a mellow night. The snow had seemingly detoured anyone from wanting to come out for a drink, so the other bartender and I were having one for them. We felt a frigid breeze blow through the bar causing the flames in the fireplace to flutter. The sound of footsteps of two people and a faint jingle were getting louder as steps neared. I peered over the beveled ledge to find none other than the “seal” and the red-shoed lady.
Choosing to sit next to the fireplace and watch the snow fall, they ordered two glasses of champagne. I delivered the drinks and twinkle-toed over to the other bartender.
“Remind me to tell you a story about those two later,” I said, grinning.
“Why? What’s up?” he inquired, seeing that I visibly had a great story to tell.
“Well, let’s just say that sometimes, it’s not just lunch.”