Paying The Bill
chicken parmagiana, we hear a cell phone ring.
and I look at each
other. Is that us?
I'm already reaching under the table for my purse before I realize that
no, of course it isn't us: my cell phone is deader than Michael
Jackson's career at the moment, thanks to a minor billing dispute with
my podunk phone company.
I haven't paid them since December. *I* say they haven't presented me
with an actual BILL
We are having some difficulty seeing eye-to-eye on this one.)
And David doesn't even own a cell phone, actually. Which means that the
ringing phone must belong to a member of the creepy foursome seated at
the table directly behind us.
stop chewing for a
moment so I can eavesdrop properly.
stops. I think it's the older woman who answers it -- the woman with
the hula hoop earrings and the missing front teeth -- but I've got my
back turned to their table, so I can't be 100% sure. I caught a glimpse
of her and her dining companions as the waitress led them to their
table earlier: a pair of slack-jawed Suburban Goth teenagers and a
slightly older, slightly worn-looking couple in matching Oakland
Raiders jackets. The four of them exuded a collective aura of menace
and Marlboros, as they walked past our table. But it was the older guy
-- one of those annoying, beefy little pit-bull guys, all "Fudk You"
swagger and Budweiser sensibility -- who gave me a serious case of the
looked at me with
those dead, angry eyes of his, and it was like he'd just stuck his
tongue into my brain.
was hoping the
waitress would seat them at one of the empty tables on the far side of
the restaurant ... but no such luck. It's the Valentine's Day dinner
rush, and we're all crowded together in this microscopic dining room
like Altoids in a tin. The creepy group behind us has been fighting and
cursing and bumping into the back of my chair for half an appetizer and
most of an entree now.
exactly the quiet,
intimate Valentine's Day dinner of my dreams ... but at least the
chicken parmagiana is to die for.
older woman mutters
something dark and malevolent into the phone -- it sounds like "I
warned you not to call us here"
-- and then I hear her pass the phone over to her male companion. "It's
for you," she says tersely. "Make it quick."
up," he replies.
reach into the bread
basket for the last sourdough roll. "Would you like to split this with
me?" I ask David. He nods, his mouth already full of pesto and
gorgonzola. I tear the roll in half and carefully spread both halves
with a thin layer of butter, then hand him his half across the table.
reply, and we smile at each other lovingly.
older man grabs the
phone away from his female companion. "Hey!" he shouts into the
receiver. "Where the fudk you AT, man? She got your nuts in a LIPLOCK
or something?" And he slams his schooner of beer down onto the
tabletop, bursting into wild, ragged, crazy-guy laughter. Thus begins a
loud, lengthy, mostly one-sided conversation, filled with enough
off-color imagery and four-letter language to make an Osbourne blush.
parmagiana?" David asks me politely, over the hubbub.
incredible," I reply. "The sauce is perfect this time. How is your
very good," he
says. "Would you like a bite?"
clear off a space on
one side of the ramekin, and David carefully deposits a spoonful of
gnocchi next to my pasta and mixed vegetables. In return, I carve off a
good-sized chunk of breaded chicken and marinara sauce and pass them
across the table to him, feeding him directly from my fork.
beams. We scrinch up our noses, Meg Ryanlike, and make little kissy
noises at each other.
us, Idiot Cell
Phone Guy is leaning back in his chair, spewing obscenities into the
phone. "What the fudk you wanna do THAT for?" he says. "How the goddamn
fudk you gonna fudking pay for THAT? You gonna start shitting MONEY?"
As he's spewing, he leans back a quarter of an inch too far, and the
back of his chair bumps into the back of my chair with a solid thunk
... not hard enough to knock either one of us over, but hard enough to
jostle the soda glass I'm holding in my hand. Pepsi spills into my
chicken parmagiana and on the sleeve of my tomato-red jacket. I glance
over my shoulder -- more reflex than reproach, really: I just want to
know if he's planning to bump into me again -- and for a split second I
accidentally lock eyes with the girlfriend. Her face is pinched and
angry-looking. A moment later, I hear her hissing at him to lower his
voice ... that he's bothering the people at the next table.
the man snarls. "THEY
don't pay my fudking PHONE
BILLS, do they? Then they can
just KISS MY ASS
if they don't like it!"
across the tiny restaurant. All heads turn in our direction. David
hands me a napkin so I can blot the spilled Pepsi off my sleeve.
about dessert?" he
asks cheerfully. "Should we go for the tiramisu?"
finish wiping up the
spilled Pepsi, fold the napkin carefully and place it to one side of my
plate, and pick up my dessert menu. I'm torn, frankly. I love the
tiramisu here, but service has been kind of iffy tonight. It took the
overwhelmed teenaged waitress almost twenty minutes just to bring us
our appetizer and drinks, then another forty-five minutes to bring the
entrees. I don't want to spend another hour and a half sitting here
waiting for a simple dessert order to be processed. "I think maybe we
should just go home and have some ice cream in bed," I say. "What do
sounds great," he says, winking suggestively. And he starts looking
around the crowded restaurant, hoping to catch the eye of our waitress.
us, Idiot Cell
Phone Guy concludes his phone conversation. "I'll call you later," he
says. His voice has dropped by several decibels, but now he sounds
sulky and defiant. "We're gonna eat now ... if the goddamned fudking FOOD
ever gets here." He hangs up -- I hear the faint beep
as the connection is severed -- and he slams the phone down on the
you," he mutters.
I have no idea to whom this is directed. I don't really care.
our bill has finally been negotiated, our leftover food styrofoamed and
bagged, our candle extinguished. David helps me into my coat. "Thank
you for dinner," he says, and he leans over and kisses me tenderly,
right there in the middle of the restaurant.
reply. "Happy Valentine's Day."
at Idiot Cell
Phone Guy's table is watching us: I can feel the heat of their eyes on
us as we walk out the door, hand in hand. I don't look at them. I
already know what I would see if I looked at him, anyway: that
stoopidly defiant expression that all annoying beefy little pitbull
guys wear when they think they're being challenged. Wanna
go outside and DO
something about it? Frankly ...
I'm just not interested. It's Valentine's Day, and I've got much better
things to do with the rest of my evening. With luck, I will have
forgotten all about this silly little pitbull of a person in fifteen
minutes. And if, by some chance, I haven't
forgotten all about him in fifteen minutes ... I can always go home and
call him Idiot Cell Phone Guy on my website.
doesn't pay my ISP
bill, after all. He can kiss my ass if he doesn't like it. next
throw a rock