When we ended last week, I and my cohorts were about to wrap things up at Adolfo’s and go wreak havoc on the town of Ocean City. If you recall from part one of this story the initial conversation I had with our waitress, then you recall my mentioning that it would come into play later on. If not, I’ll refresh you. Way back when this dinner was supposed to be just a party of 2, I handed this nice young lady my credit card and was adamant that I got the check and not my friend. Well a lot had changed since then; we had grown to a party of 9 or 10 (details are fuzzy there), we had all eaten our fill, and wine consumption per capita raised the bar. I’d like to add now that we had acquired a limo at this point so no one was driving. Thank you to my then and current boss for the vehicle change. The only exception was the new girl of my dreams who had switched to soda early on so she could retrieve her daughter.

The polite, ever accommodating, and extraordinarily patient smiling waitress approached our table with check presenter in hand. I had been having so much fun that I had totally forgotten our initial conversation. She brought it directly to me having already run my card (which miraculously was accepted) and suddenly our earlier exchange came rushing over me like a tsunami. Even though everything internal in me was going “holy crap”, outwardly I had to play it cool as if this was totally my plan from the beginning. It wasn’t the 8 long time friends and fellow buffoons I was worried about impressing. It was that one shy, quiet blond who had unwittingly burrowed her way under my skin.

I opened the check presenter, looked at the bill and the already run credit card slip, and despite the fact that my ulcer started bleeding immediately, outwardly I kept my cool. I had the game face of a World Series of Poker finalist, and the demeanor of a bomb technician. I played it off like this had been my intention all along and everything was cool. Little did everyone know that I would be standing at the doors of my bank waiting for it to open the next morning to move some things around to cover this transaction. Now, a wonderful life, a gorgeous wife, a few kids, and several years later, I affectionately refer to that dinner as the best $800 I ever spent.

I never thought to look at the check to see if she had indulged in the ‘grat parties of 8 or more’ rule. My guess would be that given the cast of characters assembled here, she had not. This was pretty much the Mt. Rushmore of surprise tables for an unsuspecting server. Despite the fact that 9 people were about to throw the most obscene tips ever on to this table since I had covered the bill, I still left something on the card like a dumbass. I never saw that particular server again, so she may or may not have retired after that shift. It was also the only time ever that I tried to portray myself as something more than I was to impress a girl.

I found myself in uncharted waters. I was completely out of my element as far as this girl was concerned. The ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude which had gotten me so far was tossed out the window. For the first time ever, I was really diggin this girl and hoping to impress her. So of course I just clung to the hope that I’d wake up tomorrow and it would be gone. (But it wasn’t.)

As the rest of us saddled up for an evening of self defilement, she politely reached out to shake my hand, thanked me sincerely for dinner, and capped it off with that trademark smile. Any of you who have ever seen that smile know exactly what I’m speaking of. It illuminates a room, captivates a crowd, and changes the demeanor of anyone within its kill zone. This first one actually caused temporary paralysis in me and altered my speech. At first I thought I was having a stroke – I would realize later that it was love.

Most of us relocated to another bar after dinner. This is where I finally, for the first time in the evening found myself seated next to my old friend who now resides on the left coast. I hadn’t seen him in months and wanted to catch up, and despite each of us having a large portion of a vineyard now coursing through our blood vessels we took advantage of the time and did just that. Even though we are two reasonably bright guys, I’m certain nothing pertinent to anything was discussed. Let me humbly point out at this juncture that my friend is by far my intellectual superior to the point that he’s never actually explained what he does for a living to me. This is simply to save me the humiliation of not getting it, and to maintain his role as just one of the guys. I love this jackass and will be eternally indebted to him for accidentally introducing me to a lifetime of unparalleled happiness.

As we sat catching up, sipping something brown in a snifter against our better judgment, his phone vibrated on the bar. He excused himself as if it were an important call though he took it from where he sat. I didn’t deliberately eavesdrop, but I was about 8 inches from him so of course I heard his side of the conversation. And his portion went something like this, “Hey. I’m glad you made it home safe. Yes, it was a lot of fun. OK, I’ll tell him. Bye”.

A seemingly generic conversation until he looked at me and said, “she said to tell you thanks so much for dinner”.

Most rational people would take that as a simple display of courteous gratitude. I however, perpetually dwelling just north of psychosis read way too much into the simple gesture. I lit up like a slot machine that had just been hit for the progressive after several months of build up. And my genius response was, “really?!” It’s hard to type emotion, just say that one word out loud with a huge grin, one raised eyebrow, and a hint of sarcasm mixed with excitement. Not quite all the way to Jim Carrey, but a bit more exaggerated than normal.

My friend seeing my enthusiasm and being able to read between the lines of it immediately responded, “Absolutely not! She’s off limits! She’s a nice girl and she’s way too good for you! Stay away from her no matter what.”

And that’s how we’ll end this week. I promise I’ll pick this story back up from right at this point. Hope you’re enjoying it so far. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols

To the readers:
I just wanted to say thank you so much for following the column. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Feel to contact me by email if you’d like to share your thoughts and input.

— Syd