Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

No Sunglasses, No Service

I know a woman (she shall remain nameless) who loses her sunglasses repeatedly. A retired attorney, she is neither careless nor insouciant. It just happens. And each time her cheaters go AWOL, she reacts with dismay and a bit of self-directed anger. Then, after a mourning period shortened imperatively by the next glary day, her chagrin wanes, and she buys a new pair.

Over the years, her disappearing shades routine, unpredictable, yet certain as California earthquakes, has clashed spectacularly with a strong preference for fashion and quality. But the former dominated the latter, and she purchased inexpensive dark glasses, one after another after another.

Until last week.

For months she had been badgering her style-oblivious husband to venture mallward on a clothes shopping expedition. He employed every excuse (“There’s a documentary on kiwi pruning I can’t miss”), but finally he entered the emporia on her arm. Three stores, five shirts, two sweaters, a package of underwear, and 31 minutes later, he was finished. On their way out, recalling the evaporation of her last pair, she paused, then entered a store devoted to protecting every eye.

“Go next door and look at hats,” she suggested, and her husband, prejudicially bored by sunglasses (he never wears them), went next door to look at hats. After one quick walk around the chapeau shop (99% baseball caps) and a scientific examination of embroidering machine technology, he strolled back to find her at a register, paying for her purchase.

“I bought this,” she said, holding up a decorative string with little rubber loops at each end. “Hook it on my sunglasses, and I’ll never lose them again.”

Edwin Land
He leaned against the counter, musing appreciatively about Edwin Land, 1936 inventor of polarized lenses. His six-second reflection on creative genius was abruptly replaced by a green display of $228.78, the cash register total.

Noting his horror-struck mien, she said, “I was hoping for you to stay longer in the hat store.”

There was nothing more to say, and they spoke no more about it.

Until today.

They went out to dinner at a local restaurant not yet tried, ordered the day’s special to share, and were pleasantly surprised by the presentation, quality, and quantity of the meal. The owner/manager was courteous, almost charming, and attentive, and the atmosphere was just right. But the Monday night service was repetitively lacking.

Their ragout arrived bubbling hot, but there was no spoon with which to serve it. The husband lifted his head, raised an arm, and finally had to leave their table to locate a waitress and make a request.

The couple soon exhausted their bread and wished more, and when no employee passed by, it was she who rose to summon a refill. Even with these service gaffes, when the gracious host appeared tableside to ask if he could do anything else for them, the two carped at nothing, rather they expressed delight with the flavors. The proprietor nodded and smiled. They asked for waters. He never returned.

Finally, watered by yet another summoned waitress, they requested the check…and chuckled to each other (“We’re in no hurry.”) when it didn’t come.

At last, the tab paid, they exited the restaurant holding hands, pleasantly full and agreeing that the food warranted a repeat visit.

“But,” he began as they reached their car, “the service was…”

He was interrupted by a waitress calling out to them as she ran across the parking lot, carrying the wife’s new sunglasses aloft.

Husband and wife stood for an instant.

Then she laughed.

And he laughed harder. “…the service was terrific.”

3 Comments

  1. Juju says:

    Great story!
    We must be related. I have one student, Jake, who is my designated “sunglass-finder” every time my class leaves the building.

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