I've been having computer difficulties, and have been trekking to Des Monies, Jordan Creek Mall, so often that I teased the "genius" bar folk of dating them, I was showing up so often and staying so long.
On Valentine's day, I made yet another trip up, and when I left, was right across the street from a huge statue Chinese Ming Dynasty style horse, saddled, leg lifted, but riderless, a very attractive sculpture. Behind it was an upscale Chinese restaurant, P. F. Chang's. I watched couples and groups of couples enter, all fancily dressed. Looking down at my jeans and light spring jacket, I shrugged, then parked, walking back through the twilight with some trepidation -- would I be denied service?
Nobody batted an eye at my attire. I was shown to a long partial partition separating the bar from the dining area, to a bench running the length of it, with tables for two. The men sat on the aisle, the women on the bench. Even though I was lacking a significant other to be in the spirit of the day, I took the inside seat.
Immediately, I became immersed in the drama of the young couple on my right. He was an early twenties ultimate yuppie, oozing cool. The object of his affections was highly unaffected, sweet and thrilled. He'd planned his meal and gift well. Passing a good sized jewelry box across to her, his focus was absolute. She opened the box, withdrawing a pendant style necklace. In the dim light, she had trouble working the clasp. A soft expression of confusion immediately had his hands tenderly reaching across and guiding hers, instructing hers in the intricacies of its operation.
Once installed, it draped becomingly between her breasts. They left.
The couple on the other side was holding hands under the table. It, too, was sweet. They finished with a shared desert, eaten one handed... I'm sure, had they not been in such a public location, they'd have kissed. They left and were replaced with a high school aged couple. A twenty-something couple settled in on the right.
The man on the right began to gripe before he'd even sat down. He'd evidently had a bad day, and nothing was going to please him. I pegged him as a professional griper and pessimist. The young woman was sympathetic, feeding his ego. I felt sorry for her, to be inflicted with such a constant negative barrage over things she could do nothing to change or prevent.
My soup arrived. Tucking my black, expensive-feeling cloth napkin into the neck of my blouse, knowing how prone I was to dribble onto my "bench", I noticed that the waiting area was packed. Obviously, this was a well thought of venue for Valentines' Day dining.
The young couple on the left were served. Their conversation was not sophisticated, but at least they were pleasant to each other.
As the meal progressed, the young man encountered a hot pepper. His eyes watered; his nose ran. He dabbed at both with a paper napkin that had been underneath his soup bowl. When it was no longer usable, he switched to hers. Taking an empty plate, he sorted the hot peppers onto it. She encouraged him to drink some of his water, but he claimed that only made the burn worse.
As he sniffled and wiped his eyes on the backs of his hands, a waitress removed both the used napkins and the plate of peppers, but did not replace the paper napkins.
As his nose continued its histrionics, I removed my paper napkin and set it on the edge of his table, carefully not making eye contact so as to lessen any embarrassment he might be feeling.
He made eye contact, thanking me. We began talking, and kept up a light banter during the rest of the meal. A Black man sitting catty-corner across the aisle kept watching me as he chatted with a male whose back was to me. I made eye contact and smiled, but we were too far off to chat.
As the fast eating youngsters finished their meal in school lunchroom time, they discussed their bill. His mother had given him $80 for the meal, but their bill was only around $50. He played coy, not intending to show her, but she snatched it out of his hand and read it for herself.
I said, "Needed to know what you're worth, eh?" and they both laughed. They left after combining their heads to figure out the proper tip, being replaced with a homely, plainly dressed older farm couple, who were also very sweet. I felt relaxed around them, as they were dressed much more closely to what I had on... Like recognizing like?
The waitress came back to see if I wanted dessert, but I was stuffed after eating my almond/cashew chicken dinner. I asked if I could get a quart of their excellent egg drop soup. She had to go check the price for me, returning to say it was $5.99. I ordered it, after counting my current cash surreptitiously while she was gone.
The griper on the right was now in a much better mood, and made a few remarks that were interesting. The waitress returned with my soup, but no bill, so I offered her my credit card.
Smiling widely, she said, "Your meal has been paid for."
I was shocked. "Then I should just owe for the soup," I said.
"No, it has all been covered." I was startled beyond belief.
The former grump smiled and suggested that maybe it was the young couple I'd given my napkin to.
When the older couple's waitress returned with their soup, I asked her if the young Indianola couple had paid for my bill. She indicated that they had not, looking quite puzzled.
I didn't think of it then, but the soup was ordered after they'd left...
I had no idea whom to thank, so I made a general thank you to the room and left, feeling ten miles high.