I “Wood” Rather Not
Following Mass one week-day my friend Anita and I decided to have breakfast at a national pancake emporium. Entering the lobby we realized we would have to wait a while to be seated. I approached the hostess’ lectern and, having been told the waiting time would be ten minutes, I reserved a table for two. Before I could give her my name, however, she handed me a rectangular block of wood about the size of a cell phone embellished with some colorful printing. Though slightly taken aback I retreated with my friend to a bench to await our turn along with some dozen other patrons.
At many restaurants today where reservations are not required it’s standard practice to call out the customer’s name when his table has become available. At others, you’re paged with a miniature version of a UFO complete with flashing red lights and a built-in vibrator. At least with one of these you’re treated to a cheap erotic thrill when notified your table is ready.
This low-tech block of wood, however, had no technical upgrades whatsoever. Its potential seemed rather limited, to say the least, and I was mildly curious to see how it worked.
Anita and I sat chatting for a few moments when the hostess called out “BILL GATES!” The young man sitting next to me wearing shorts, T-shirt, and a gimme cap (he certainly didn’t look like Bill Gates), got up and he and his female companion were led away. A minute or two later we heard the hostess page another celebrity, “JULIA ROBERTS!” and another couple followed the hostess to the dining room.
And then it struck me! A feeling of dread overtook me and panic set in. Suddenly I was thinking of fleeing the restaurant, leaving that oversized wood chip behind for some other hapless victim. What to do? Should I discretely return it to the hostess and walk away with my dignity still intact? Should I pretend to have mislaid it under the discarded paper towels at the bottom of the ladies’ room waste bin, miss my turn, and quietly inform the hostess later on? Should I just pretend not to hear my movie star name, wait a few minutes more and ask the hostess when my table will be ready? Before I could decide on a course of action the hostess loudly called for the next celebrity. “TINKERBELL!”
Too late. There weren’t that many customers left waiting and no one was moving. Anita began to rise and for a split second I considered yanking her back down to the bench. But that, too, would have been an obvious give-away. We were trapped! Sheepishly I got up, clutching that loathsome lump of lumber. As expected, the other customers all looked our way, nudging each other and giggling at our pathetic notoriety. No doubt they were all grateful they didn’t get stuck with that ditzy name.
Somehow I managed to smile back at the lucky patrons, although I think I did so through clenched teeth. I handed in my alter ego and Anita and I followed the hostess to the dining room, cherishing our renewed obscurity.
The Past Is Prologue
And then it happened. A flashback. It was high school all over again. At that time there was a stupid joke that went like this:
“I know someone who likes you.”
“Tinkerbell. She likes all little fairies.”
Not only that. Thursday was “fairy day.” If you got caught wearing green on Thursday you were ridiculed as a fairy. I was a Girl Scout. We wore our green uniforms to school on meeting days. Guess when our scout meetings were held. That’s right. Thursday. And what color was Tinkerbell’s costume? Green. Oh, the humiliation! Now it was happening all over again. Although it wasn’t a Thursday when Anita and I walked into that restaurant, I was wearing my green jumper. Murphy was right. And this was all so wrong.
Before we left I paid for my meal with my credit card; I’d had enough of dealing with anything green for the day. By the time we left the restaurant I had resolved that if I ever return there for breakfast I’ll be armed. I’m bringing Tink’s little magic wand and I’m going to create some magic of my own. I’m going to tap all those cute wooden celebrity-coded blocks and turn them into another celebrity who’s always in the papers: Charmin!
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