Second Base

A recent, pleasant lunch at a long-established restaurant yielded a brush with fame.

The restaurant, nested in a too-cute-for-its-own-good Finger Lakes village, is a Main Street mainstay for locals and visitors alike.

On any given weekday – that’s “workday” for those who’ve long abandoned that soul-depleting activity – the bar stools are fully occupied and tables completely populated by well-dressed people of all ages, though diners tend to skew older (which means I fit right in).

At least two perfectly compelling reasons explain this. First, the food is quite good, even if not at the “food porn” level of contemporary, chichi foodie critics. Not merely filling. Tasty.

And second, many tables and a good portion of the bar’s real estate afford sitters a wonderful view of the clear, northern shore of the shimmering lake.

Attendance at the we’re-so-pretty-it-hurts village was prompted by an arduous journalistic assignment. The Woodstein work required an early rise, both to accommodate my customary vigorous workout at the gym and the 90-minute drive to the story’s location.

But two hours of sweat-producing reporting (aka note taking) is rewarded by lunch. Journalism, as is well known, involves enormous personal sacrifice thereby making extravagant but un-reimbursable lunches apt.

Two things stand out (an expression that will be funny, in a third grade way, a few paragraphs below) from the lunch experience.

From the moment the server greeted me to the time I left the table for the parking lot, something was naggingly familiar about her. The waitress’s face prompted a distracting familiarity, though not so distracting as to dissuade me from eating every morsel on my plate.

Each time she stopped by the table – to refill the water glass, replenish the bread tray, bring the mustard – something about her appearance made me think I recognized her.

“Recognize” in the way one recognizes TV news anchors. You don’t know them, have never met never mind spoken to them, but feel as though you have a relationship with them.

The social scientists call this a “parasocial” relationship. (See Horton and Wohl, 1956.)

And now we interrupt the chronology for a behavioral aside.

Well-known for my helpfulness, I assisted the server’s table-clearing efforts by passing her my plate.

As I was assisting, she was pulling the plate – and my hand – toward her. Inadvertently, and innocently, I hasten to add, my thumb brushed against her breast.

Though incredibly brief – there is, currently, no instrument to measure such a tiny amount of time – and involving only the very, very tip of my thumb, at my age one values and appreciates such encounters. Regardless of duration.

We return, now, to the regularly scheduled program.

After agonizing without successful resolution about the waitress’s seemingly familiar appearance for the entire meal, after paying the bill and enclosing the tip (uh, gratuity), I could stand it no longer.

As I stood up, the waitress coincidentally approached and I said: “I have a personal question, one I feel entitled to ask given our lengthy relationship. Who,” I asked, “do your friends say you look like?”

Without missing a beat, she replied: “Well, my friends say Tina Fey. But everyone else says Sarah Palin.”

And, in a flash, followed with: “No difference, right?”

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