by Joe Janes
First Date at The Cheesecake Factory
Tuesday, January 8, 2017
7pm, Cheesecake Factory
In Attendance – Richard, Bonnie, Skylar (server)
- At 7:05pm – Richard and Bonnie were sat at their table. Richard had made a reservation, which was totally unnecessary. It was a Tuesday night at the Old Orchard Mall in January. We weren’t busy. In fact, I probably would have been let go had they not been seated in my section.
- 7:07pm - This was clearly a first date. Both looked to be in their 40s and rough around the edges from previous relationships, probably marriages. They were dressed up, but not too dressed up. I could tell from the bus station that they both wore too much perfume and cologne. His Old Spice Musk was getting bitch slapped by her Live Luxe by Jennifer Lopez for Women over the basket of bread that had just been set down. They were attempting to be charming with some slight smiles and polite laughs.
- 7:08pm – I took a deep breath and approached the table. Their eyes looked relieved to see me. I was something they could focus on that wasn’t each other and their own insecurities. I told them the specials which poured into their vacant eyes and spilled out their ears. I took their drink orders. Bonnie didn’t know and deferred to Richard who ordered a Long Island Ice Tea but then switched to white wine when Bonnie ordered a chardonnay. I walked away and watched my favorite part of the first date. When they realize they must look at the menu and can’t talk and decide at the same time. Sublimely awkward as they flip through our textbook-sized menu in silence.
- 7:15pm – I drop off their wine. They weren’t ready but also didn’t want me to leave. My least favorite part of waiting on a couple. Richard was deciding between the Fried Shrimp Platter and the Macaroni and Cheese Burger. Both are horrible for human consumption but I pointed him toward the Fried Shrimp because it costs more. Bonnie then asked if I recommended any vegetarian dishes. Richard then asked “Are you a vegetarian? Do you eat fish?” She said nothing as I suggested Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta – rigatoni with vegetables. Something any simpleton could make at home for a nickel, but here it costs more than his shrimp. This was going to be a good night. As I walked away, I heard Bonnie say, “Didn’t you read my profile…?”
- 7:25pm – I could not tell if the vegetarian thing was a deal breaker or not. I checked back at their table to tell them their entrees would be out soon and to save room for dessert and to check the temperature of the table. Things have cooled. Bonnie ordered another glass of wine and Richard switched to our Modern Old Fashioned, which is nothing like an Old Fashioned because it’s MODERN and easier to make and cost way more than a glass of house chardonnay so I was happy to comply.
- 7:30pm – I drop off their drinks. Their entrees had come out. Bonnie picked at hers silently as Richard heartily bit into the crusted shrimp and left the tails on the table between he and Bonnie. Barbaric. I loved it.
- 7:33pm – From behind a pillar, I could hear their conversation. It was stilted. It went in fits and starts. They politely and hopelessly covered basic date topics: work, family, work, hobbies, and work. Richard brought up Star Wars. Bonnie didn’t like how they dealt with Luke Skywalker. Richard thought the fights were cool. The conversation then died without becoming stronger. There was a moment of talking about politics, which sounded like an attempt to find the one best reason not to see one another. Turns out they had both voted for the same person. Whew. As did I. I would not have to dip an unwashed middle finger in their dessert. The conversation stalled again. They were disappointed they had something in common.
- 7:50pm – Their plates were cleared. Bonnie finished off the last drops of her white wine as I approached with the dessert menu. Richard reached for his wallet. He started to say, “I think we’ll just take the check” but I cut him off around the “we’ll” because I knew where that sentence was going.
- And I said…” Hang on. You two are on a first date, right?” They slowly nodded their heads. “And it didn’t go as well as you had hoped, right?” There were small concessionary shrugs. “Listen to me. Trust me on this. You’re basing a decision about spending the rest of your fleeting life with another human being on an hour spent at a Cheesecake Factory in Skokie. Take a deep breath. Look at one another. In the eyes. You both have very nice eyes and this won’t kill either of you. It may actually be pleasant. Sit quietly and I’ll be right back.” I stepped away from the table. They were doing it! Richard and Bonnie were quietly sitting and looking into one another’s eyeballs. As quickly as I could, I came back with a slice of cheesecake and two forks.
- 7:52pm – “This is the Reese's® Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake - Chunks of Reese's® Peanut Butter Cups in our Original Cheesecake with Layers of Delicious Fudge Cake and Caramel. It is peanut butter and chocolate. It is cake and cheesecake. It is very different things put together to make something very special. If either of you are allergic to peanut butter or don’t like chocolate, then cut your losses and just walk away. It will never work. If you're cool, just try a bite.” I stepped away and watched from afar. Richard and Bonnie took small bites and then started to relax and enjoy the dessert. They were down to the last few bites and Richard started to tell her to go ahead when she scooped it up and popped it into her mouth. They laughed and she reached out and put her hand on the back of his. I nearly wept as I wrote on their bill “GYB - smiley face - Skylar”. I explained that GYB means “Got your back” as I set down the check.
- 8:10pm – Bonnie insisted they split the check. I took both their cards and brought them back. As they left they thanked me profusely for saving their evening and they promised me they would go on a second date and probably come back here for dessert. I told them I looked forward to seeing them and to remember to name their first born after me, Skylar.
- 8:15pm – I noticed on their bills that Bonnie tipped me 25% and Richard tipped me 10%. That fuck. I looked her up on Facebook and Twitter and posted on her page warning her about her douchebag new boyfriend. No one should ever end up with an asshole who only tips 10%. This isn’t Europe.