July 6, 1997
You Make the Call!
Ladies and Gentlemen, my social life goes interactive in this very special edition of @LA.COM.
Now, thanks to the marvels of modern Internet technology, you can now play a part in determining what happens with part of my social life. Mind you, I’m under no constriction to follow your guidelines, nor am I abdicating my ability to make an informed and educated decision about my own future. But if President Clinton doesn’t do anything before taking a public opinion poll, then that’s good enough for me.
You see, I found myself in one of those uniquely awkward social situations the other day, and I’m not quite sure what to do next. So, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll write about my personal life in excruciating detail, then you can fill out a little form at the bottom of this page, and automatically e-mail in with your words of wisdom, encouragement, or suicide method suggestions. (Okay, it’s not that bad.)
Our story begins, as do so many of the great tales of Greek tragedy, at the California Pizza Kitchen. (I read a very liberal translation of "The Iliad" in college.)
This branch of C.P.K. sits nestled on the second floor of a rather nondescript mall-like structure, abutting Ventura Boulevard in a rather nice part of Encino. It’s Thursday, July 3rd, a hot and rather unpleasant day in the San Fernando valley. I’m picking up my dear friend Linda at her office, then driving with her to C.P.K. for a very usual, very normal lunch date.
1) Linda is engaged to a very lovely man. We’re all quite happy for the both of them.
2) Linda is wearing a huge-ass engagement ring. I, obviously, am not.
3) I do not have a date for Linda’s wedding, and am on the lookout for one.
4) Linda and I come to this C.P.K. all the time, and have developed a usual routine. She gets the Thai Chicken pizza, wheat dough, no cheese. I get the Hawaiian. It’s that simple.
Or at least, it was that simple, until our waitress approached.
We’ll call her "Sandy." (Not her real name; God forbid she should actually read this.) She was tall, but not too tall. She was beautiful, but not too beautiful. She was lean, but not … oh, gee, you get the idea. She had a cool hair thing going on; stylishly cut, and a splash of red enlivening her otherwise quite nice chestnut-colored hair. Or does that make her sound like a horse?
And a smile. Something about that smile…
Listen, maybe this is a bit much. But she really was quite cool. She listened to me tell a story about going to see a movie (Men in Black) at 4:00 in the morning. Did she think that was just odd, or was it cool, in a hip L.A./Hollywood kind of way? "That’s pretty cool," she said, indicating a level of hipness. Then, she sealed the deal. "Was it a bargain matinee?" she asked. "No," I answered, "strangely, those didn’t start until the 7:00 a.m. show."
I was hooked! Okay, so apart from all those shallow, surfacey things, "Sandy" appeared to be pretty hip, too. Always a good sign. Now, my mission was twofold:
1) Distance myself (discreetly) from my lovely lunch companion (and her huge rock, shimmering like a small lighthouse).
2) Find out more about "Sandy."
So, over the course of the meal, when it was appropriate, I made small talk with her. Eventually, I did work in the sentence "My friend Linda …" which I thought should convey the appropriate message. Then, as all lunches do, the end arrived. Linda and I were finished with our meal, and it was time to go.
(I probably should point out here that Linda has, all along, been doing her fair share of encouraging, trying to get me to talk with "Sandy," and generally being quite funny about the whole thing.)
Could I just walk out that door? Could I just do nothing, say nothing, bite my tongue, and curse my fate?
"Sandy" provided a golden opportunity to parlay my meal into something much more.
See, the bill was $23 or so. We paid with two $20 bills. "Sandy" only brought back $7 worth of change. Now, I’m not opposed to tipping big when the service is great, but this was a little bit much.
"Okay," says Linda, "now’s your chance." I knew what I had to do. I had to face "Sandy," and Linda agreed. Linda left the restaurant, waiting for me outside, so I could talk with "Sandy" in private.
To use a phrase from Swingers, here is the "money" thing to say:
"Hey, "Sandy," I don’t mind you keeping that extra ten dollars, as long as you spend it on me later. Say, like, coffee after you get off work?"
Unfortunately, that’s the line that came to me as I sadly walked to my car.
Here’s how it happened:
I approached her, and gently touched her on the arm to get her attention. "Hi," I said with a smile. "Hi," she said, curious, but not especially hurried. "So, listen, here’s what happened with our bill," I said, going into a complex math equation showing how perhaps I was owed another ten dollars. "Not that a ten dollar tip wouldn’t be in order, maybe later … after some time …"
"What?" "Sandy" asked.
"You know, after, maybe, I’ve been here a bunch of times, and … the service is great, then maybe ten dollars would be an appropriate tip …"
(Insert video of the Hindenburg going up in flames here.)
"Oh," she said with a laugh, and that smile. "Here you go." She peeled out two fives from her tip purse and handed them to me.
As I drove Linda back to her office, we commiserated over the fact I had just blown a pretty good opportunity. "You know, I’ll probably never talk to her again," I said. Then, jokingly, I added, "I wish you could talk to her. You know, woman to woman. Find out what her story is."
Oh, and one other thing you should know: Linda is a very bad girl.
So, I went on about my daily business, which on this busy Thursday involved me meeting another friend for a snack in Pasadena, going to the Dodgers-Angels game in Anaheim, a trip to Hollywood’s famous Dresden Room with some friends from work, and late night dinning at Jerry’s Famous Deli.
2:30 a.m. I arrive home. The message light on my phone is blinking.
"Colin. I called her. I called "Sandy" at C.P.K. She thought you very funny. She also mentioned that she was seeing someone. But she wasn’t freaked out or anything. She’s pretty cool. She’s got that cool hair thing going. And she wasn’t as ditzy as I thought. So I say, you should go back and hang out around there until she breaks up with whatever loser she’s dating …"
And therein lies the problem: Where do you go from here?
I have to say, there are a couple of distinct choices, and now, finally, we get to that interactive portion I mentioned up at the top of this page.
What should I do? What can I do? Send in your vote by checking one of the check boxes below. Also, fill in any comments or suggestions you might have, and send those along too. We’ll talk about the results of this little survey next week.
Thanks for taking part in this survey! Be sure to come back next week, for another update. Who knows, maybe "Sandy" has been thinking things over ...