Friday I had a lunch date. We met around 11:45 and were seated at one of the many empty tables. Before my butt was even settled in the seat cushion, a waitress appeared out a puff of red smoke and and quickly barked out the lunch special of the day. I smiled and responded, “No thanks. I had Mexican last night.” Now first dates are a little nervewracking on their own, but this one was going to be challenged by strange “external stimuli,” as they say in Chemistry class. Politely, my lunchmate indicated we’d not yet looked at the menu. The oddly familiar waitress said, “Oh, OK. Take your time,” but she seemed to be hovering as she dashed to and fro. In fact, my date remarked about the level of bustling in the place.

43 seconds later the anxious woman pounced again with pad and pen. The inevitable drink order ensued, followed by a rapid-fire delivery of “all the lunches come with salads, so do you want Italian or Creamy Vinegarette?” I tried to explain the situation, but I don’t think she was very accepting of my excuse and she stormed away. So here I am, sitting across from a lovely woman, feeling incredibly pressured to ignore her and focus on the menu. We did managed to squeeze some conversation in between the moments of intense server interrogation, but based on some of the questions, I wasn’t sure the chat was going all that well.

The tension was building and I honestly think our server increased the intensity of the booths overhanging light in an effort to force us to talk. Finally, she broke us and we ordered salads. She rattled, “The salads come with salads. Do you want them?” “Um… No thanks.” I think we both felt pretty startled by the abruptness of this woman. I mean, I just couldn’t help help but feel at any moment she was going to push a James Bond like “ejector seat” button and jettison us into the parking lot. When our salads arrived 13 seconds later, I had to ask for a Splenda again. The waitress was clearly annoyed.

It was so bad that neither of us really ate much salad and my date kept indicating she wanted to leave. I really wanted to chat, but was haunted by the thought that this woman was back in the kitchen with a giant hourglass plotting a way to get rid of us. Suddenly we both felt oddly sleepy, so I suggested we retreat to a coffee shop next door. I was relieved the response was very positive. Even though we were taunted on our way out, once we got into the coffee shop, we spent a couple hours pleasantly chatting. I imagine Dorothy’s nemesis turned about 8 tables during that time…