A month ago, give or take couple of weeks, I had plans to meet up at a local coffee house with a friend. I arrived, approached the "hostess for the moment" and asked if anyone was waiting for anyone else to show up.
"Not yet," she said, "But you can look." So look I did. I did not find my friend. The "hostess for the moment" decided she'd sit me nonetheless so I could wait in comfort. There are two rooms to this joint. She sat me in the backroom across from the night's local musician -- a guy on guitar who did not sing.
I gave up. I grabbed my stuff and left my complimentary glass of water and two menus on the table. I scanned the other room quickly as I made my way to the door. Outside I called home, "Did S happen to call, by the way?" I asked Bruce. No, no messages, no calls. I headed home.
I got around the corner when my mobile phone rang. "S just called. She's sitting at the place wondering if you're there. I told her you had just called and left." Umm, ok. The car did a u-turn and I hurried back. Too late, she had left.
We managed to hook up on the phone shortly after - laughing at the confusion. When she had arrived the "hostess at THAT moment" knew of no one waiting and sat her down at a table in the front room (aka, not the one I was in) so she could see people come in the front door. Except you can't really see the door well from those tables. Clearly the two of us lack highly attuned observation skills since neither of us noticed the other when I passed from back room to front door -- despite the fact we were both there.
We laughed it off and planned for another attempt at getting together. Except work/life got in the way of that one and we had to postpone.
Tonight we tried again. Margaritas with some food on the side at Chili's. Lots of catching up and chatter. Our few and far between get togethers tend to last quite some time. We ate. We talked. We ran out of food, plunked our money on the table with the check and talked some more. The waitress never came to get the money (perhaps her ploy to get ALL the change as a tip? Not that we actually had enough down to warrant getting money back but she did not know that.)
The restaurant was nearing "empty" save for the staff and a few tables of late diners. We continued to chat, completely oblivious of the hour.
I heard them before I saw them -- employees. One was yelling about "getting out of here" with a colorful expletive or two tossed in for good measure. His co-worker chided him "Customers!" And I thought perhaps the cranky boy was simply mad that the small lot of us hadn't gone home yet, while his buddy was reminding him not to curse about the customers when they were sitting right there.
But that wasn't it.
One of the black shirted young men came to our table, speaking to us and the table near us, "We have to get out, there's a fire in the back."
Well ok then, why didn't you say so.
"Fire in the back", to me, meant "grease fire that we're going to squirt with the extinguisher but we need you to leave lest you want to sue us later for the trauma of being in a burning building." I had thought I might have smelled something burning but hey, sometimes that happens at an eatery. When we got outside, however, there was noticeable smoke coming from the edifice itself and the smell to go with it. S and I got in our respective cars -- parked near enough to the building to want to move out of the fire trucks way. Perhaps out of "flames' way" for that matter.
To get out of the parking lot, one must drive around the side and out the back into the larger lot of a shopping complex. That's when I saw our "grease fire" was so much more. I'm talking "big shooting flames out the back door" fire. Holy crap!
I stopped a moment in a parking spot in the main lot - a feasibly safe distance from the event. I could hear the sirens screeching in the distance already on their way. I saw my friend pull around the and drive past me with a wave goodnight. We were both safe. The trucks were on their way. We headed home. Safe. Sound. Unscathed.
Yet I have to wonder, is there a reason we've having so much trouble having dinner out together? I mean really. I might develop a complex if our luck continues.