Every restaurant has an “it” table. The one reserved for VIPs. The one that is located closest to the bar and kitchen without being caught in the crosshairs of waiter traffic. The one that is both private but remains in the limelight. It’s the plush leather booth that when passing it invites you to fall in and have a dozen cocktails. As cozy as a papasan chair and an elitist sophistication only matched by the Oscars- diners want to be this table. Table 70. It’s in my bar, my section and I will (shamelessly) take full credit for its reputation.
I have many stories about Table 70:
The 13 New York ballerinas that split an appetizer 13 ways and complained of full bellies. A gentleman with the silhouette of a life-size grenade who avidly drank Shirley Temples with, “extra cherries, please.” Serving Jason Schwartzman while he profusely apologized for his drunk girlfriend. Dealing with a Napoleonic complexed man who didn’t have a reservation, yelled at me for saying he couldn’t sit there without one, and proceeded confront my boss resulting in my near walk-out at 5:15p.m.
And many more.
But this past Wednesday evening, I had a VIP and guest sitting at Table 70. They were my VIPs. A dear friend on a date.
Now, before I delve into this story, let me preface a detail or two. First: the friend in question has a job that requires him to commute daily. This commute is an hour each way. So, midweek, we’ve started a tradition by which he stays with my fiance and I on Wednesday nights so as to get an early start Thursday morning. Second: I had run into him earlier in the week and asked what his plan was for Wednesday and he alluded to having a date.
“Do I know her?” I asked.
“Nope? That’s all I get? C’mon.” I probed.
“No, you don’t know her. It’s someone from work, kind of-” he replied.
“Very well. So a dinner date? Why don’t you come into the restaurant and sit in my section! I promise to give you the regal treatment.”
“Done!” he replied with great enthusiasm. “See you then.”
The regal treatment promised, starts with booking Table 70. I had just clocked in, and started about my afternoon while polishing up my VIP’s table. I set it as though the Queen of England was expected; seven pieces of silverware (each), three different crystal glasses, a heated bread basket with softened butter, sparkling or still water in the cooler behind the bar, a pin wheel of freshly cut lime and lemon wedges, and the dinner menu strategically placed between atop the bread plate and beneath the linen in the very center of it all. The wine list you ask? That’s me. I was prepared to pair each course with a half glass of the perfect wine.
It was about 7:15p.m. when I saw my VIP arrive.
“You’re a bit early. I wasn’t expecting you for another 30 minutes,” I said.
“Yeah, I thought I’d come in a bit early and have a drink with you,” said my VIP.
“Nice,” I replied while I reached for his usual aperitif: Aberfeldy, two rocks.
After having set Table 70 with such precision and care, I was anxiously excited for my friend. More than anything, I was desperately curious to see who my VIP was hiding for me. He had been so ambiguous, nearly hesitant to tell me anything about this girl, that I became just as nervous as he was. My stomach fluttered with anticipation as I awaited the details, that after my great efforts, I felt I was entitled to.
“So, what does she look like?” I question like a giddy high-school girl.
“Who?” replied my VIP.
“Your date. I don’t know anything about this girl!”
“Oh, the date! Yes, well…well, that kind of makes to of us,” he responded as he breathed into the glass of his aperitif.
“What? What do you mean?” I asked. And then it hit me- my VIP had been set up on a blind date. Suddenly, it all made sense. I had misunderstood his hesitance for incertitude! He wasn’t intentionally trying to withhold information about his private life; he was being introduced to this person at the same time I was. My stomach’s flutter evolved to a furor. Who was this girl? Who was this person that thought she was worthy of my VIP?
“We need a code-” I demanded.
“What? No. We don’t need a code,” replied my VIP.
“Yes, yes we do. What if she’s terribly awkward, or lame or reeks of B.O.? What if you want separate checks? What if you need out? Trust me, you’ll thank me later. Choose a code.”
“No. Code.” he responded, sternly.
“Fine. No code. Pretty confident about this, huh? You have to know something about her, right?” I probed as a finally attempt.
“Well, [SUCCESS] she’s the daughter of a friend of a co-worker of mine, ” he began.
“How old?” I asked.
“23. Apparently she’s super fun, likes to party and stuff.”
” ‘Super fun and likes to party and stuff’ ? She’s 23. Of course she is, ” I responded.
“Well, we’ll see how it goes.”
I walked off to tend to some other tables for a moment, made my way back to the bar as my VIP made his way to Table 70. I was reaching for a bottle of wine when my co-worker threw an elbow into my ribs.
“Is that her?” he asked. The staff knew that I had my VIP coming in and were becoming just as curious as I was. Without looking, I said that I couldn’t tell him even if I did. My hands grasped the bottle at the same time that one of the waiters walked up, waiting for a drink. I could hear him sniffing and couldn’t help but to sniff as well, wondering what he could be smelling.
“Do you smell that?” asked the waiter. I took a deep breath in as I looked at him.
“Am I sniffing for a bad scent or a good one?” I asked. He giggled and replied, “Good. A really good one.”
I continued to sniff and around my third deep inhalation, I caught the smell: strawberry body butter. I took a few more breaths and got other hints, hints that only point to one direction. The strip club. But I couldn’t pin point where it was coming from. Perhaps my busser had walked through the bar as she tends to frequent the gentleman clubs with a few of the kitchen and floor staff. Maybe it was residual for a pre-shift visit? Not thinking much of it, I turned to check on my VIP to see that he was afoot greeting the girl.
She was, cute. Young. Celtic background perhaps. Standing at about 5’7, she was weighted proportionally. She wore blue jeans, a white t-shirt and a black shrug. Not exactly the attire I would have worn on a first date- especially as my VIP looked dashing in his suit- but this city is a casual place. Attire, excused.
Alright, alright- I’ll describe her properly and put my protective tendencies aside:
She was darling. Wearing peep-toed high heels that revealed nicely manicured red toenails, she immediately hit a soft spot in me. I love peep-toed high heels. The bottom of her jeans draped perfectly atop the crest of her shoes so when she walked, she showcased her well-painted toe nails. The jeans were very Abercrombie and Fitch in both style and wash; fashionably torn and intentionally aged. The bottom of her t-shirt fell perfectly around her hips directing an implied line just above her pockets, and circled around her derriere. Fitted, her shirt outlined an hourglass silhouette and boat-necked at the top revealing the top of her apple-sized bosom.
Her skin was quite fair and delicately freckled like batik-painted porcelain. Her shoulders curled in, slumping her posture a bit which only revealed her age. The age in which confidence blossoms pulling shoulder back and nudging the chin up. Long, lustrous red hair fell at her shoulders that only made her blue eyes pop like stars against a night sky. She had slightly over-shadowed her eyes black and lacquered lips a bit too much, yet there was a hint of Rita Garbo-like elegance in her face. Her cheek bones were soft, her eyes brows delicate and her nose denoted an air of aristocracy.
Anxious to meet her, I approached table 70 and caught a stronger whiff of the strawberry body butter en route. I greeted the both of them, introduced myself and got their drink order. Shaking a margarita in one hand while turning to reach for a glass with the other, I nearly dropped everything when I discovered my manager standing right behind me.
“Jesus! You scared me. What?” I asked. She was grinning. Not smiling, but grinning which meant that she had something to tell me. “Out with it- what is it?”
“The busser and sous chef have something to tell you,” she said while pressing her lips to contain an evident laughter.
“Alright, send them over.”
“No. Meet us in the back dining room.”
“What is it? Why can’t they come in here?” I asked.
“They know the girl with your VIP,” she said now twitching with anticipation.
“Ok, I’ll be there in a minute.”
I finished making their drinks and walked over. Table 70 is a half booth with two large leather chairs on the end. My VIP and the girl had chosen to sit together boothside, which meant I had to lean over the table to set their drinks down. I struggled to hand them the drinks, and the girl reached to help me.
“Thank you so much,” I said and caught a glimpse of her finger nails. Long acrylic nails with burgundy-tinsel tips.
Making my way to the back dining room to see what the connection between my busser, sous chef and the girl was, I couldn’t help but to try and draw the connection myself. They were all about the same age, so perhaps they went to high school together? Yes, that must be it. I opened the door to the back dining room to find my manager, the busser and sous chef eagerly waiting and giggling.
“Do you know the girl from school?” I asked in attempts to confirm my hypothesis. The sous chef and busser laughed and were stammering over their words trying to relay this vital information.
“Is she a celebrity? Justin Beeber’s nanny? What!?” I demanded.
“Well, we know her. We actually hung out with her on Thursday night…” my busser trailed off which only prompted my sous chef to explode in a Beavis-like cackle.
“Ok…where were you on Thursday?”
“The strip club!” blurted my manager as the sniffing waiter walked in chanting, “I knew it! I fucking knew it!”
I nervously laughed as I remembered the smell that lingered in the bar; the shimmer of her burgundy-tinsel tipped nails now burned a hole in my mind. The descriptions of “fun” and “likes to party” suddenly all made sense as I envisioned scenes from the movie Showgirls. How was I supposed to tell my VIP this? He needed to know. WE SHOULD HAVE HAD A FUCKING CODE! I proceeded delegating a course of action.
“Alright, busser- you are not allowed in the bar. If she sees you, it’ll make it awkward- that goes for you too sous chef. Stay out of the bar! I need to figure out how to tell him that he’s on a date with a pole dancer.”
“A really talented one though,” began my busser, “She’s super cool and she does this thing where she grabs the pole and jiggles-”
“AH!” I interrupted, “Stay out of the bar.”
I opened the door back into the bar and the smell of strawberry body butter- the smell of stripper- was now more pungent than ever. I walked over to my phone and began texting when the other bartender walked up.
“Who are you texting?” he asked.
“About what? He’s right there,” he said.
“About a code. We should’ve had a code!” I hissed erasing another draft of a text.
“Oh…I see. You know, I thought I had ordered her once. There are only so many ginger strippers you know,” he said.
“Consider me enlightened.” I replied and sent the text message to my VIP.
I looked over to table 70 and looked at the girl. My Garbo visions dropped to the floor along with her clothes as I imagined her dancing around a pole. It broke my heart. She was 23, and mother of a 3 year-old little girl and took off her clothes for a living. But worse, my heart seized at the thought of what my VIP was potentially in for: prototypical daddy issues, visitation rules at her work, opposite work hours, her breasts nuzzled in the faces of half the staff; the girl could not date my VIP.
Having received my text, my VIP’s phone lit up and he just as quickly excused himself to the restroom. Chivalrous bastard that he is. Within a minute I received a response asking what I knew, but I was distracted with new customers and couldn’t respond. My VIP was left hanging.
When he returned to the table I overheard the girl wanting to tell him something. I discreetly dropped an eaves on the conversation and she said that she did in fact work at a strip club on the north side of town. Laughter from a nearby table’s (own) conversation bellowed through the bar deafening my ears to my eavesdropping. There was no confirmation that the girl had told him exactly what she did at the club. The anticipation killed me as I was lassoed against my will like a calf in a rodeo, into a conversation with one of my bar regulars. My priorities were at Table 70, but my obligations were demanding mojitos.
By the time I was through with schmoozing my bar regulars, my VIP and the girl had finished dining and were on to a digestif. I directed them to the bar top to keep me company as I broke down my station and cleaned up. We chatted for a moment and I presented the bill by setting it on the bar, fighting my temptation to clench it between my teeth and lean in to the girl.
My VIP picked up the tab like a complete gentleman, although according to my busser and sous chef and their Thursday night, she should have picked up the bill.
I closed them out and told my VIP that my fiance was at our house and that I’d meet them there shortly. He said that he was walking the girl to her car and would meet me there. We gave each other a long stare and a slight lift of an eyebrow, so as to silently confirm that he’d call me as soon as the girl pulled out of the parking lot. A code, imagine that.
Locking up the last of the coolers, turning down the lights and clocking out I walked out the door and heard my phone ring. It was my VIP.
“Well, hello there.” I began.
“I’m dying. What do you know?” responded my VIP.
“A code. I told you we should have had a code!”