The Dinner Club

When I arrived, the parking lot was full of “More Muscle Per Gallon” F-150s and  “370 HEMI horses can’t be wrong” Dodge Chargers.  Monster vehicles.  This could only mean one thing:  the place would be crawling with men, and they would be the kind of men that made my skin crawl.

As I neared the entrance, I knew I had to make a choice: sit at the bar, or request “table for one” to a hostess that would look at me with quizzical eyes and an air of disapproval, or at least some awkwardness.

Over at the bar sat those monster-vehicle-driving turds and quickly, I weighed the pros and cons of taking up a server’s precious table (And trust me when I say– no server wants to wait on a single diner; especially a woman dining alone.  We are typically the worst tippers on the planet.  And picky, picky, picky!).

My 20 years as a bartender and waitress in the service industry and my loyalty to such sisterhood contributed to me throwing caution to the wind about those brusk men and I headed for the bar. I’m sure whoever would have been my server appreciated my thoughtfulness.

I chose the corner seat, one that was far enough away from this group of…uhhh…gentlemen, but not so far as to seem anti-social or worse, “afraid” of my own shadow, or more accurately, the turds.

These four gruff men, who obviously know one another, entertain each other with mindless banter about what they’ll have for dinner.  It’s apparent to me that they are probably blue collar workers.  They each sport either a dark hoodie or a Field and Stream flannel and Carhartt jeans.  Each look as though they just walked off the set of Duck Dynasty. Is that show on anymore?!? Each sits at the bar, legs straddling their stools, draft beers being consumed faster than one can request another.  They place their orders– steaks, of course– and one, perhaps the most extroverted in the group, begins to chat up the bartender, a good-looking female.  Here we go, I think to myself.  Let the games begin!

This guy in the group is the Flirt.  And he– and his buddies– think he’s hysterical.  He’s got a line for everything the bartender says.  I find him pathetic, and I’m sure the bartender does too, but she’s there to make a buck and knows she must work it.

And work it she does; although I give her credit because she plays along just enough to make that money but doesn’t return the awkward attempt at flirting so much as to ignore the rest of her guests, nor to lose all self-respect.

Shortly after my dinner arrives (I’ve ordered a 16 oz. ribeye, steak fries, and a glass of Merlot.  Typical female diners flying solo order the salad.  But I ain’t typical.), here comes a family from Hee Haw– three diners, a teenage male and what I assume to be his mother and father. Mama Hee Haw excuses herself to use the restroom, and Daddy Hee Haw uses this opportunity to attempt to engage me in conversation.  But I don’t want to be rude, so I play along for a little while, until it gets awkward.

“Mind if I sit here? I don’t want to crowd you.  I don’t like to be crowded when I eat.”

It’s a free country, dude, do whatever you want; just don’t breathe on me, okay? “Sure, it’s no problem,” I say.

“I tried a JagerBomb for the first time the other day.”

“Oh yeah?” I say, as though I’m interested.  Um.  Okay.  Where the fuck did that come from?  I’m sitting here with a glass of wine and my steak and that brings to mind a JagerBomb?!?!?  Although, ironically, just this past weekend, I also had a few JagerBombs during a Penn State tailgate with my manfriend (Oh…I didn’t tell you that story yet? By “manfriend,” I mean “boyfriend,” but it feels too awkward to call him that because he’s not a “boy;” he’s very much a man, and we’re adults and those words just seem too, I dunno…juvenille?!?  Anyway… That’s a whole other story– a very good story–  but it’s our story, and it’s one I prefer to keep private…but at least I’ve let the cat out of the bag…so, there’s that! And a wink to you, G.  You know what I mean.)

But back to Daddy Hee Haw…

He continues on the path he started, informing me that he told his girlfriend about his new experience and of her concern of him trying this delicious chug-friendly drink, but he goes on to report that “it’s not like I’m going to drink one everyday.”

I don’t even know what to say, so I just smile and continue cutting into my steak.

“Y’know, I haven’t had a drink in 15 years.”

Ok.  So now I get to be Daddy Hee Haw’s AA sponsor?  

I turn to my phone and begin to text, rapidly, to said manfriend.  He’s GOT to know this stuff because it is too funny, and I want to share in the experience with him.  Dining alone is a first for me, and it feels significant, and I want him to know.  Doing so also suggests to Daddy Hee Haw that I am busy.

He either gets my drift, or he feels silenced by Mama Hee Haw who has now returned from the restroom.

Another “gentleman” joins our initial Duck Dynasty crew and he’s just as brusk and burly as his barmates.  I sense all five of them looking at me, but I dare not make eye contact because I know that doing so will elicit another conversation that I don’t wish to have.  Look, bozos, I’m just here coz I had a hankerin for a steak– a big, fatty steak, and a glass of wine.  I have not dressed for the occasion, as I’d originally planned to head to the gym on my way home from work, so I’m wearing sweatpants and a cut-off tshirt underneath my Flag Nor Fail hoodie.  I didn’t even fix my makeup before I arrived.  I am NOT attractive at this moment.  Please leave me be.  I am not interested.  Trust me– I.  Am.  So.  Not.  Interested.  But I am alone.  And I am female.  And therefore, I am bait.

Thank God for my phone and the notebook I’d brought it to document this “first.”  If ever I felt awkward or as though I was being “examined,” I ferociously wrote in my notebook or texted my manfriend.

Take note, female diners who dine alone:  Look Busy.  It’s intimidating to those who would otherwise view you as “fresh meat.”

Daddy Hee Haw’s getting louder now.  He’s boasting to his wife (yes, wife– he’s wearing a wedding band on his left finger and it’s pretty clear from the Hee Haw’s body language that they are, indeed, married.  Recall earlier “conversation” when Daddy Hee Haw referenced his “girlfriend.”  What a dick.) that “money is no object” and she agrees, asserting, “as long as you’re happy.”  The couple is alluding to their “summer home” in Florida.  Who knows– maybe Kornfield Kounty is for real, and it’s located in Florida.

A salesman joins our Dinner Club.  I can tell he’s a salesman because he sports a company-logo polo shirt, has a receding hairline, and drinks a glass of wine.  These are all tell-tale signs of the salesman who comes to the bar and dines alone.  This guy is typically kind of creepy, and our latest guest does not disappoint.  When placing his order, he speaks so softly and quietly that the cute bartender cannot hear.  He repeats his order, using that same, soft voice.  She leans in closer to hear.  This is part of his game.  He follows her “lead” and leans in closer to her and repeats the order.  Sick prick.  I know your game, Mr. Salesman.  Been there, done that, and it’s likely Cute Bartender Girl is not going to fall for it because she’s already demonstrated to Duck Dynasty that she’s not interested in your silly tricks.  Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids!

For my further enjoyment, the “cast” of the restaurant crew begins their line dancing routine.  “Devil Went Down to Georgia” blasts in the room and the toes start tapping.  Daddy Hee Haw is in his element, and he begins to clap his hands to the beat of the song.  Thing is, he can’t find the beat.  His clapping is two beats off.  When he realizes that no one else in the restaurant is clapping along– with neither him NOR the actual beat of the song– he stops and returns to the mounds of food that lie before him.  I failed to mention– Daddy Hee Haw must weigh over 300 lbs.  And he’s not 7 foot tall.  Just sayin.

I’m nearing the end of my meal while a few others join the Club– a Miller Lite beer rep and a couple of regulars, one of which includes “Betty” who arrives with her husband and who likes bacon on her salad, but much to her chagrin, her salad is delivered to her without bacon.  Cute Bartender Girl promptly rushes to the kitchen to fetch Betty her Bacon.  Betty Bacon.

Cute Bartender Girl clears my space and asks if I’d like anything else.  I tell her no– even though I’d really like to stay because this could possibly be the most entertaining place on Earth– and she delivers my check.

I examine it before placing my card on top of the bill.  She’s forgotten to charge me for my glass of Merlot.

What do I do?

Should I tell her?

Maybe she innocently forgot, or maybe she intentionally hooked me up? Can’t say I haven’t done the same in all my years of service work.  If a guest was exceptionally friendly or appreciative of my service, I’d hook them up with a free glass of wine or a beer.  Sorry, Ruby Tuesday.

I lean towards not telling her but ferociously text manfriend to get his vote.

He votes no.

I stay quiet.

I reconcile my decision by figuring the restaurant doesn’t lose much on a single glass of wine, and plus, I have a small ax to grind with this place anyway because of the time the manager kicked Jeff and I out of here (it was NOT our fault, I swear!).

Oh Cute Bartender Girl, I know what it’s like to be you.  And there’s a pretty good chance you’re gonna get ripped by Duck Dynasty, Hee Haw, and Creepy Salesman.  And Betty Bacon seems kinda picky, so she and her husband are “iffy.”  These types are the worst tippers, no matter how good your service, no matter how much you flirt back when the Creepies and the Ducks so desperately crave your attention.

So here you go, Cute Bartender Girl– here’s $10 on my $18 bill.

My first experience dining alone has brought a smile to my face; I hope that a good tip puts a smile on yours.

 

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