Wanting something might be better than having it

The humidity hung in the air like a living thing, making each breath feel hot and heavy. Sweat trickled down my spine, tracing its damp trail between my shoulder blades and running down to the small of my back, making me even more aware of the peculiar summer heat. It couldn’t actually rain in California in July could it? It could and it did.

The couple appeared to be both hot and bothered when they arrived at the bar. Heat and humidity and the resultant dampness can cause all kinds of issues.

He helped her off with her summer jacket and then pulled her chair out for her. Chivalry is not as dead as some might suggest, especially when dampness might be involved.

He asked her what she might want, and then sat patiently as she took much time to figure it out. For some women, it’s not the order itself that matters, but the actual process of ordering and the fact that someone, anyone, is waiting just for them. I’ve seen the most outspoken 50-something businesswoman turn into a bashful 12-year-old when approached by a bartender.

“Me? Is everyone waiting for me? Well I just don’t know …”

While we might outgrow our childhood, we never quite leave it behind.

I’ve also noticed that patience with a date (male or female) is directly proportional to how long the two have been dating. It could take all night on a first date, on dates 10 or 11, not so much.

We eventually got around to a drink order. In my business patience is not just a virtue, it is an actual necessity.

The two seemed awkward and unsure with each other, as if not quite sure how to behave. He was overly deferential and she was just too demure. It reminded me of a prom date, all the elements were there; the opening of doors, the pleases and the thank-yous, but it seemed too contrived.

Eventually they went to a table where the contrivances continued. Champagne and split salads, finger feeding and dessert. It was like a veritable cliché of a date, all of the trappings but none of the substance. What it lacked was what the scientists call chemistry — well maybe not the scientists, because when it comes to love and romance, science has little to do with it. More like alchemy, and this date had none of it.

At some point she got up to use the ladies room and he made his way over to the bar.

“I guess you know that [enter ex-wife’s name here] and I aren’t together anymore.”

The date with another woman was certainly a big clue. In the bar business, however, we keep confidences. I don’t care if you’ve been into the restaurant three times that day; every time is the first time, at least until you say otherwise. Shakespeare wrote that “Discretion is the better part of valor.” And who am I to argue with that? Needless to say I didn’t mention his ex-wife and her date a few nights back.

Dessert came and went with the last of the diners in the restaurant. “Closing down the bar” has to be the biggest cliché of all, especially when it’s forced.

After dinner drinks followed. They say “In vino veritas,” or “in wine there is truth.” Unfortunately it is not the sort of truth many people want to hear.

The truth in this situation started with a hushed discussion that rose into an argument.

“You are not the man I thought you were!” was followed by a storming out. And then an awkward re-entry while a cab was called. A great exit can so easily be ruined by having to return.

That hot summer night ended with a Scotch and unsolicited long explanation about what just happened.

“I think I might have made a huge mistake,” he said.

I am still unsure of whether he meant in the short term or in the long one.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• Having something is not always as great as wanting it.

• “Patience is also a form of action,” wrote the sculptor Auguste Rodin, an artist who worked in a medium that demanded an awful lot of it.

• Shakespeare was being ironic in “Henry IV,” putting those discretionary words into the mouth of the obviously cowardly Falstaff.

• Weather reports indicate we are in for a hot dry spell.

• Proverbs become clichés only once we get tired of them.