A quiet night among frenemies

IT WAS AS ordinary as any ordinary night in the bar business could be. Shakespeare might have made much ado about nothing in his famous “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but I fear the Bard would have been bored to death with the reality of that Wednesday night — two late-40-something women too gussied for a weekday night and one lone liquor rep.

The women were nursing two sauvignon blancs, not so much because they enjoyed the subtleties of one of the great cépages nobles (noble vines), but because they had discovered that often a glass of sauvignon blanc is the cheapest wine on the list. Bartenders notice the little things.

“Hey Jeff,” the rep said. “Have you tried the new (insert wine name here)?”

“No, we just got it in.”

“Open a bottle, I want you to try it,” he said, knowing that an educated salesperson is a good salesperson.

I collected the bottle and two large appropriate wine glasses. Trust me, when a rep wants you to try a taste of a $100 bottle of wine I have found it wise to say yes. Call me discerning.

The women took note of the extra effort involved in a $100 wine purchase. They also took an immediate interest in the rep and in his $100 wine.

“Oh,” said the more flaxen-haired of the two, “what do you have there?”

“Here Jeff, take a taste,” the rep said. “You’ll notice it has notes of … ”

“You’re cute,” said Ms. Flaxen.

“Huh?” he said.

Ms. Flaxen’s companion shifted around her friend to the rep’s other side, effectively surrounding him.

“Don’t mind her, her husband divorced her because she’s crazy,” Ms. Flaxen’s friend said.

“What did you say? Ms. Flaxen asked.

“Oooh, nothing dear; we are just talking about the wine,” she said, adding a barely audible, “See what I mean?”

The rep looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders.

Caveat emptor is a well-established Latin axiom; vende diligenter, or sell carefully, is a phrase perhaps not as well known but probably just as prudent.

“The fruit shows …” the rep started again.

“I said you’re cute,” said Ms. Flaxen, physically reaching out to touch his face, turning it toward her like a 4-year-old might do to an inattentive mother.

Sensing a losing battle, he requested two more glasses for the ladies.

“Oooh,” said Ms. Flaxen’s friend when the big glasses arrived. “But, keep an eye on her. She has a problem with the booze.”

“What did you say?” Ms. Flaxen asked, letting go of the rep’s face.

“Nothing honey,” she said while simultaneously rolling her eyes and jerking her head in Ms. Flaxen’s direction, as if to say, “See what I mean?”

An impossibly timely phone call took the rep and his attention into the foyer, leaving the two women with the $100 bottle of wine and two large glasses.

In quantum theory, all things that can happen will happen eventually. Proving that theory correct, Ms. Flaxen’s friend emptied the remainder of the bottle into their glasses, filling them to their brims.

When the rep returned, he looked at the empty bottle, the two full glasses, the two women, the two tiny tastes and then at me. He didn’t say anything, but produced a credit card and made a most hasty retreat.

Let’s just say that the night ended with a yelling match, two taxicabs, some spilled wine and a loathing for all things quantum. Oh, and one very small taste of a truly excellent wine.

The evening left me with these thoughts:

• I now know what a “frenemy” is.

• “An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind,” the Buddha said.

• “True friends stab you in the front,” said Oscar Wilde, who spent two years in prison for one of his “friendships.”

• Julius Caesar was stabbed to death — in the front — by his friends. On a Wednesday.

• Liquor reps are smarter than you think.