(Photo: “I’m tellin’ ya’, dude, there’s still time for her to call.”)
“Don’t worry, I’ve done this before and they almost always call,” said Nick, announcing his decision to leave his number for our waitress. Overly Frank and I were less than eager to witness the passive-aggressive, likely-to-go-down-in-flames example of heterosexual courtship. We were more immediately curious as to why we were staring into yet another complimentary cookie sundae that had just been plopped on our table.
The same thing happened the last time Frank and I ate at R.J. Grunt’s, the mother restaurant of Chicago themed-eatery juggernaut Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a week before. We assumed the previous free dessert was the work of the waiter who came up to us to say hi after recognizing us both from Bear411. This time, the host answered out quizzical gazes. “We bring cookie sundaes for every person who eats here for the first time,” he told us. “That’s why we ask if you’ve been here before when we seat you.”
That made sense. I’ve loved Grunt’s burgers and malts for years, but on our prior visit I remembered Frank telling the waitress it was his first time. This time, it was Nick’s turn to be a newbie.
“I knew you’d come in handy,” I told him.
“People say that to me all the time,” Nick replied.
I met the 25-year-old Cincinnati expat on the ‘L’ one evening in late June. He noticed I was using a 3G iPhone and came over to show me his 3GS. From zero to 60 words per minute in no time flat, he launched into an instant conversation about tech specs, how much he’d liked his first two months in the Windy City, and whether the Taste of Chicago was still open that day. I did my best to ignore his lack of a left hand while I tried to figure out whether he was coming on to me. Given his rapid-fire choice of subject matter, I had a feeling he was a fellow ADDer.
The quarter hour Nick spent trying to decide between two hamburgers at Grunt’s left little room for ADD doubt. “If you don’t make up your mind soon,” I growled at the 15-minute mark, “you’re gonna lose your other hand.”
“How did you lose the first one?” Frank asked.
“Bar fight,” Nick lied.
“Birth defect,” I said as I closed Nick’s menu. “But Nick likes to make up alternative stories to see what he can get people to believe. He had Chris thinking he lost his hand in a sword fight.”
“Sorry, guys,” Nick apologized. “I’m not usually so indecisive.” I’d eaten with Nick in restaurants before. How he managed to get that sentence out with a straight face I’ll never know. “It’s just that our waitress is so hot. Did you see her?”
The new boyfriend and I just stared at the Cincinnatian without saying a word.
“Oh, right,” Nick finally clued in. “Well trust me, she’s pretty.”
She was. Pretty busy. Pretty older. And if I bet money on these sort of things, pretty much out of Nick’s league.
Nick went on. “I’m gonna leave her my number.” You have to love the persistence of single straight guys.
“I thought you hated women,” I asked.
“Not all women,” Nick replied. “Just the ones who’ve burned me in the past and the ones who never call me back and the ones who lie to me. Like a lot of the women in Lincoln Park.” Nick hasn’t been a Chicagoan long enough to know the word, Trixies. “You know, social climbers. Back stabbers.” He went in for the kill. “Bitches.”
Frank opened his mouth as if to start speaking then closed it just as quickly. Like a carp coming to the surface to gasp for air, I’ve come to know it as Frank’s trademark expression for signifying speechlessness.
Nick went on. “Now our waitress, she’s not like that. I’m sure of it. So I’m gonna leave her my number. Not directly, since she’s busy here at work. But I’ll write it on my check when we leave.”
Uh-huh. Nick’s edgy, lovelorn diatribe seemed the verbal version of a crooked wig, so Frank and I just left it alone and continued with our dinner. I had a feeling Frank was hoping Nick’s ADD would kick in and he’d forget to pass his love note. I, on the other hand, sharpened my inner pencil and leaned in a little closer to Nick to make sure I took accurate notes.
When the unexpected dessert came, Nick didn’t let me down. He looked right at the target of his affections and asked, “Honey, can we have separate checks?”
“It’s not that I want a girlfriend,” Nick told us as he wrote down his name and number. “I really just want a relationship for the evening. It’s easier that way.”
“Do you think that’s all she’s going to want, too?” I asked.
“We’ll see,” Nick replied. “Fingers crossed.”
Frank and I wished him luck. “Now,” I said, “let’s get the hell out of here before she reads that thing.”
As the three of us headed up Clark Street back to Frank’s house, I had to ask. “So Nick,” I said, “what makes you so sure she’s going to call? You know, for my blog audience?”
“Hey, it’s almost always worked before,” Nick replied as if he were stating the obvious. “Sexy babes like that always want a piece of the good stuff.”
I didn’t have to turn my gaze in his direction to know that Frank was rolling his eyes. I continued to press. “But are you sure you’ve covered all the bases?” I had a reason for asking. I knew there was one small thing Nick was overlooking.
“Yes, all the bases, man,” he replied in the coolest tones he could muster. “All the bases.”
If it hadn’t been for Nick’s ongoing air of douchebaggery glee, I would have taken far less pleasure in my following words.
“OK,” I said. “But since the waitress didn’t actually see you write your number down…” I paused to watch Frank’s eyes light up. Nick still couldn’t see where I was headed. “…out of the three of us,” I continued, “how will she know you’re the one who left it?”
Nick’s face made an almost audible thud as it hit the pavement. “Well, um, wait a second…,” he stammered, before quickly realizing there was only one possible course for his reaction to take. “Oh…dammit!” he yelled into the Lincoln Park evening. “Dammit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!”
“What are you gonna do?” I said to Nick. My question was meant as consolation, but he took me at my word.
“Well, do I think I should go back there and tell her it was me?” he asked. “I think I should go back. You think? Yeah, I think I should go back.”
“Don’t you dare,” Frank warned as Nick started to turn around. “Michael and I have to eat there, you know. Don’t embarrass us any further than absolutely necessary.”
“I guess all I need to do is come with a title for my blog post now,” I said while Nick smirked in my general direction.
“Give it some time,” Frank suggested. “I mean, I know you have your punch line now, but judging by the baseline of his actions thus far, aren’t you just a little curious to see what else Nick might be capable of before the evening’s over?”
“Well,” I said to them both. “If nothing else, I probably should hold off on the blog post until we see whether the waitress calls or not. It’s only fair to give Nick the benefit of the doubt.”
“No, man,” Nick moaned. “I totally screwed this up. She’s not gonna call. She’s just not. Fuck.”
“Now you don’t know that,” said Frank. “Actually, she might call. Didn’t your check have the free sundae on it? If the waitress remembers you were the new guy tonight, then when she sees the sundae comped on your check-”
Nick didn’t wait for Frank to finish. “Yes. Yes! It was on my check!” Nick exclaimed. “The sundae was on my check! Oh, thank God. That’s how she’ll know it’s my number on there. That’s how she’ll know it’s me! Hurray! See, man, all the bases! I knew it! I’m in!”
Nick hurried on ahead while Frank and I slowed down to shake our heads. And then the cherry hit the top of the sundae. “Oh my God, Frank,” I exclaimed. “He’s skipping.”
Frank and I let Nick have his moment. As time eventually did tell, we knew the waitress wouldn’t call, but no matter. We were too engrossed in the manic display unfolding before our eyes. As Nick continued to happily hoot and holler over an event that any rational person would never expect to come to pass, Frank and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe. After all, we knew we were listening to something never before heard by human ears.
The sound of one hand clapping.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.