by Judy Berman
It’s hard to argue when our girls moan about the endless strands of flawed DNA that they inherited from me. Any faux pas they make is quickly eclipsed by my own unraveling.
A prime example is what happened at the House of Naan.
Naan is leavened bread, an Indian food that’s simple and tasty. As we savor the naan and herb tea with cloves, I think it’s odd that my husband and I are the only ones at this popular but tiny restaurant.
The caramel-colored waiter has sleek black hair. His mustache and neatly trimmed beard are salt-and-pepper. His crisp white shirt and pressed black slacks are the only concession to his profession.
He smiles, but says little. There’s no, “Hi. I’m Fred and I’ll be your waiter for tonight.” It’s obvious who he is and why we’re there. No fuss, just straight up, two menus, and he lets us ponder our options while he’s off to fill our drink requests.
About an hour later, I’m pushing the vegetables of the Malai Kafta around the plate. But I’m not too full for kheer – a rice pudding flavored with rose water. At last, we decide to leave before they have to roll us out the door.
Dave confides he’ll leave a little extra for a tip because we kept the two men past closing. They shut down for 2½ hours in between lunch and dinner.
“When do they close?” I ask.
My eyes widen as I look at my watch. It’s now 3:30. Dave, who never wears a watch on the weekend, was unaware we arrived at the restaurant 10 minutes before they normally shut down for the afternoon.
“We’re so sorry,” we both apologize as we back out the door.
The man, who waited on us, smiles and says quietly, “No problem. We weren’t going anywhere.”
I had visions of them slapping up their huge closed sign before we pulled out of their driveway.
I felt: GUILT!
Moments later, I’d feel worse.
When we pull into a parking lot in the village, I remind Dave we have to mail our phone bill before Ma Bell comes to our home and personally yanks out our wires. We’re about to walk to the post office when I look in my purse and realize the bill is not there.
The bill is not in the car or on the ground next to where we parked.
We jump back in the car. Dave nervously scans the side streets which are really just a blur as we whip through the village. He is on the alert for the ever present, always vigilant police cruiser. A mile and a minute later we’re back at the House of Naan.
The closed sign still leans precariously against the window, revealing only the OSED on the red and white sign. The restaurant is dark inside and the front door is locked. I knock, gently at first, on the glass door. No answer. I try again, this time more vigorously. Our waiter comes out of the dining area.
He is in his stocking feet and wears a bathrobe. He’d been sleeping.
Still, he smiles as he unlocks the door. I explain – as fast as I can – which might not be a good idea. I don’t know how intelligible I am at warp speed to someone who’s just been rudely awakened. But the concern on my face is unmistakable.
“Our bill. Our phone bill,” I now falter. “I … I think it fell out of my purse.”
He turns to speak to someone, probably the other waiter, who is now wrapped in a blanket and stretched across the booth where we’d just had lunch. The man fumbles around the booth and floor in search of my bill. I never see his face.
Dave, afraid I’d never leave until I had the bill in hand, enters the restaurant.
“I found the bill. It was in your purse,” Dave announced sheepishly, waving the bill at me.
The waiter laughs, repeating Dave’s comment. I cringe, my face now the color of my bright, red sweater. Again, I apologize and make a hasty retreat. I’m certain I’ve ruined his slim shot at sleep. He’s probably in there snickering about the vegematic who can’t keep track of time or her bills.
Determined to make it up to them, I call our friends, Rob and Lisa. I relay the whole embarrassing episode and ask if they’d like to join Dave and me for dinner at the House of Naan next Saturday.
“Sure,” Lisa piped up. “How ‘bout 3 o’clock?”
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