The two of them wandered around the parking lot tables until the busboy pointed them towards the front door.
“Ah, the front door,” said the man through his raggedy red bandana.
A trip to the front door led to a trip back to the parking lot, this time with the hostess and her click clicking high heels leading the way. Those heels made a different sound when they encountered the blacktop, but nobody seemed to notice.
The woman with the man, in a perfectly coordinated mask, scarf and summer dress, epitomized the contradictory nature of eating summertime outside dining in an area cooled by evening fog. Not every restaurant is set up for outdoor dining and many are just making the best of it.
Speaking of making the best of it, the woman eyed her “date” up and down. Previously mentioned bandana, unkempt Covid hair, slightly torn cargo shorts, all bottomed out with mismatched white socks and dusty athletic shoes.
If opposites attract, we were in good stead.
“That’s an interesting outfit,” said the woman through her silken mask.
I got the feeling we weren’t in good stead. He, however, did not.
“You know, the pandemic,” he said, or rather mumbled through his bandana.
“Is this your first time out since it began?” she asked.
For years I had often heard the phrase, “It’s just like riding a bike,” used regarding dating. Especially a renewal of dating following a hiatus, whether that was marriage or divorce or both. I have now often also heard the same phrase used in regard to dining out.
While neither of the couple were sure of their balance, one seemed to be handling it better than the other.
Her French 75 was placed down by a rubber gloved hand, as was his draft beer. She lifted her glass and pulled the red silk cord of her mask to one side, exposing her bright red lips, he pulled down his bandana exposing two weeks of unkempt stubble.
“To us,” she said.
He leaned over too far, rocking awkwardly in a chair seated on unlevel asphalt, and spilled his beer slightly.
If dining out again is like “riding a bike” this was not like any bicycle I’ve ever seen. One person came and cleared the beer soaked debris: paper napkins, plastic forks (and this is one of the nicest restaurants in town) and their barely touched plates, then a different person, in mask and gloves, carrying a bucket reeking of sanitizer approached the table scrubbing it down before yet a different person approached with resetting accoutrements. As bike rides go, it was quite labor intensive.
All part of the new reality. A renewed vigor in cleanliness has certainly made me realize how lackadaisical cleanliness seemed in the past. Why haven’t there been handless wash basins for years? Shouldn’t hand sanitizer in restrooms have always been a given? And bathroom door handles, don’t even get me started on bathroom door handles. Remember the good old days when coughing in public barely garnered a first look, much less a second or third look, and possibly a scolding? Fasten your seatbelts it’s going to be a bumpy ride seems to be the mantra of the year. And what about those seatbelts? Did anyone ever clean them? I don’t know, but it seems like an obvious question now.
The plucky couple made it through the appetizers without a glitch. But when the entrees and the second beer came, something else became a little more obvious.
“Shoot!” he said spilling his beer again. Although in the interest of truth, the word he used didn’t have two o’s.
“Do you think you should have a second beer?” she asked, a question that was repeated by their server just moments later.
“I’m not driving,” he said, as if that was somehow the point.
After the sanitation crew performed their service once again, she left. It wasn’t immediately clear to their server, who looked around for her when he arrived. And it wasn’t obvious to the man in the bandana until he had finished his entrée.
The man looked around outside before wandering inside only to be guided back outside by the hostess.
“You can only come inside to check-in or use the bathroom,” she said.
“But I’ve lost my date,” he said looking around like a rumpled shaggy-haired middle-aged stagecoach robber.
Eventually he put it all together, paid his check, made a few unanswered phone calls, and then took a taxicab home
Leaving me with two questions:
-If dining/dating really is like riding a bike, what if the bikes are different?
-What if you weren’t particularly good at riding a bike in the first place?