The attractive 30-something woman was unable to hide her urgency to leave the busy restaurant as she requested the check.
“I’m sorry to cut this short,” she said to the man across from her. “You’re a nice person, but I can’t sit through dinner with someone whose thoughts about our country, and other human lives, are so different than mine. We aren’t very compatible, but I enjoyed meeting you.”
With that, she picked up her pea coat and placed a few crumpled bills on the end of the bar. “What a jerk that guy is,” she mumbled to the bartender before bee-lining it to the door.
Having not received the memo that the dinner date at Table 14 had turned from flirtation to fiasco, a food runner arrived with steaming dishes of pasta and a second drink for the surprised loner.
“Um, I’ll take one of those meals in a box to go and move to the bar, if that’s OK,” he said.
Settling in at the small bar designed primarily for service drinks and take-out orders, he struck up a conversation with the less-than-interested bartender, who had no place to hide.
“I’ve been talking to her online for about a month and I knew she was different,” Formerly Table 14 confided. “But I didn’t think she’d start in with nutty politics. Plus, she didn’t look anything like her picture. Just as well.”
And so begins the pre-Valentine’s Day play-off season in coffee shops, restaurants, and of course, bars across the city. Memberships on match.com and other dating sites reach a seasonal peak. Single folks are once again reminded that their lives are lacking without a date lined up for Feb. 14.
And many buy into it.
“I took a credit card to hold a reservation for a lady who doesn’t have a date yet,” said an amused Portland restaurant owner. “She just knows she wants to come here for Valentine’s Day. We do a nice job, it’s very romantic.”
“It’s a little early, but I had a call about our prix fixe menu having vegan dishes,” a bistro manager shared. “The guy who called doesn’t know what kind of eater his date is going to be. I’m not sure he knows who he’s bringing.”
“Valentine’s Day is one of the great amateur nights out,” my career server pal from Boston reminded me. “We’ve been booked for two months and if it wasn’t for the built-in service charge, I know I’d be screwed. Just like New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day.”
“But V-day is no doubt the saddest one,” he said thoughtfully. “Year after year, it seems like people are trying so hard to look, and be in love. New Year’s Eve is about getting smashed. This is something totally different and it can be painful to watch.”
Meanwhile, the jilted guy sitting at the small bar ordered a third drink and turned to his phone.
“Well, there’s plenty of fish,” he said, this time more to himself than the bartender. “Hey man, maybe I’ll see you on Valentine’s Day.”
Over shift drinks later that evening, the consensus was it looked like another Super Bowl dream not meant to be.
Q — More than a month ago my wife forgot a favorite scarf at a restaurant we like. After checking in twice about lost-and-found items, she accepted the fact that it was gone.
Last night, we went there with friends and were floored to see the hostess wearing it. My wife is sure the scarf was hers, but didn’t want to make a scene. She wants me to call the manager. What do you think? — Mike B., Cape Elizabeth.
A — This is a tough one because even if the scarf landed in the lost-and-found box, there’s no way to discuss the subject without making an accusation, or at the very least an insinuation.
How it ended up around the hostess’ neck isn’t a given. Did a dish dog snag it and gift it to her? Was the lost and found actually checked when you called? Did you speak directly with the manager? And, is your wife 100 percent sure the scarf is hers?
An industry sister suggested you carefully ask the manager to approach the hostess about the coincidence of identical scarves. Who knows if he’ll do it, but even if there’s no resolution to your wife’s issue, it’ll put the house on high alert for similar occurrences.
Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.