So then…the server drops off our drinks and hands us the most impossibly long menus I’ve ever seen. Each menu is one extremely tall sheet made of beautiful parchment paper and printed with an elaborate typestyle, bordering on calligraphy.
I’m only 26 so my eyesight is still good – but even I’m having trouble reading the ornamental curlicues on the script, especially since this swanky Manhattan restaurant is darkly romantic — lit mostly with candles.
My date excuses himself to the men’s room, so I sneak a quick glance over to the large mirror in the bar. I’ve dressed up for our date and I must say, I’m looking pretty damn good. This sentiment seems to be shared by the two guys talking at the bar since they both look in my direction and smile.
I smile back demurely, but quickly return my attention back to the nearly illegible menu – after all, I’m already on a date. I hunch over the menu, leaning closer and closer, trying to read the ornate descriptions of Italian dishes in this dim lighting.
In my peripheral vision, I see the two guys at the bar staring at me. Inside, I’m all: Really guys — cool your jets. Didn’t you see I’m with someone?
Now they’re smiling and motioning to me and pointing. Are they asking me over for a drink? Oh, stop, I think. Really – I simply couldn’t! I’m blushing from all the attention.
I shoot a mock scolding look at them and return to my menu – which is on fire.
Yes, on fire.
I’ve leaned so close to the table’s candle, trying to read the damn thing, I have now set it on fire!
The flames are flying – the blaze burning briskly to the bottom of the parchment — ashes fall to the table – everyone whips around to see the spectacle — but I’m afraid to drop it and start a bigger fire — so I just hold it, in shock.
The server swoops over, grabs the bottom of the menu and dunks it into the wine bucket of the table next to me. Instantly a bus boy races over and removes the glasses, silverware, candle, and tablecloth. He whips out a fresh white linen tablecloth, resets the table, returns the drinks and hustles away. Meanwhile the server swiftly replaces the wine bucket of the table next to me – then zips back to delicately place a fresh new menu in my hand.
I swear to you, this all takes 60 seconds. They move with such effortless grace and quick thinking, I can only imagine that this sort of thing must happen frequently at this dark-romantic-illegible-menu restaurant.
No sooner does the server sail away than my date rounds the corner and rejoins me at the table. He is none the wiser. All evidence of my near-calamity has been eradicated. I look exactly as he left me – except my heart is hammering wildly.
I shoot a look of relief at my would-be admirers at the bar, who I suppose were really would-be rescuers all along. They smile and give me a thumbs up.
The other diners who were momentarily alarmed all return to their dinners.
When the server gently places the bread basket on the table and winks at me, I realize that the entire restaurant has unanimously decided to join a conspiracy of silence so my date never learns that I almost burnt the place down while he was taking a piss.
But of COURSE I tell him – because how could I not!? Oh, the drama! Lives were almost lost while I tried to distinguish between the tagliatelle and the tortellini!
— Darcy Perdu
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