By BOB VICKREY
(Editor’s note: This “Best of Vickrey” column was chosen as a finalist for a California Newspaper Publishing Association award in 2017.)
I’m trying to remember exactly when my friends all began having dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon. It has occurred to me that this phenomenon could possibly have something to do with their age—and yes, perhaps—maybe even mine.
It seems that every time someone asks me to join them for dinner lately, the invitation begins: “Why don’t you meet us at Ferdinand the Bull’s at 4:30. The early-bird special there is fantastic and it’s only $9.95.”
I’m not sure which element of the early dinner is most intriguing to senior citizens—the time or the price—or both. I want to be a good sport about these generous dinner invitations from friends, but they need to understand that we seem to be living in alternate universes. At about that time, I’m not quite finished digesting my lunch.
Perhaps there was an 11th Biblical commandment that I missed along the way. It probably proclaimed: Oh, aged ones, let not darkness fall upon thy grey hair before thy supper has been taken, lest ye spend the rest of the night in thy bath house upon one’s urn.
I also missed the high school civics course that included the little-known amended Jeffersonian decree from the Declaration of Independence: When in the course of human events, it becomes impossible for one people to have dinner at the same time for fear of a logjam at the front door of the Charlottesville Denny’s, therefore we shall proceed in an orderly fashion and break bread in two shifts. Henceforth, for the public good, the older citizenry shall take their meals at an untimely hour and return to their domiciles, lest anarchy rule the colony streets.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I’ve been living a rather laid-back lifestyle since my retirement several years ago. I normally don’t wake up at the crack of dawn since my obligations are fairly limited these days—as my bare calendar clearly confirms.
In fact, when a friend recently asked which day would be best for lunch, I tried to hide my embarrassment about my blank calendar by pausing a moment as if I were studying my limited options. I told her that I might possibly be able to work her in either Tuesday or Wednesday, but admitted that Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday—or maybe even Sunday, might also be possibilities. I’m finding that playing hard-to-get has proven extremely difficult these days.
One of the problems in syncing-up time schedules with friends is best illustrated by my friend Barry, who is also retired, but nevertheless inexplicably crawls out of bed in the middle of the night. He’s up making coffee at 4 a.m. and is usually out the front door a half hour later.
Since his rising time is several hours before daybreak (at least that’s what I’ve been told), I can only assume he must be reporting to his parole officer at the downtown station. Otherwise, why else would anyone in their right mind voluntarily be up at that ungodly hour?
Not surprisingly, everyone dining at Ferdinand’s at 4:30 had grey hair, so I fit in quite nicely there. I also noticed the waitress was speaking rather loudly when she approached our table. I assume that she has routinely been asked by these early-bird groups to speak up, so she was likely trying to avoid repeating herself. I found myself shouting out my order as if she, too, were hard of hearing.
The limited early-bird menu was heavily skewed toward this golf-cart crowd, which offered plenty of “comfort” food dishes. I ordered the stuffed “loaded” baked potato with the “lime jello surprise”, but the real treat was a glass of apricot “wine du jour.”
We immediately knew it was of the highest quality because it was poured from a huge white box. Some at our table were disappointed that we weren’t offered a refreshing glass of Metamucil to top off our meal. Nevertheless, it felt so nice to be living the good life.
I was back home by six o’clock and found myself completely disoriented. It would normally be about time for my shower, mixing a stiff martini, and then beginning to make plans for dinner. I wondered if I should just go to bed like the rest of the group did when they got home. But then I’d face the possible dilemma of waking up at 3:30 and making coffee like my sleep-walking friend Barry. Then what? I don’t even have a parole officer to visit.
If Thomas Jefferson had actually issued that bogus decree 240+ years ago, maybe I could blame him for these aggravating early-bird dinners, but who am I kidding? It’s just a matter of time before I’ll be picking up the phone and calling my friends: “Hey, I found this great little spot nearby that offers a 20% discount on their chicken-pot pies if you order before 3:30 p.m. And that’s not all—it comes with dessert—a generous serving of Del Monte fruit cocktail with a dollop of Reddi-Whip on top. So, who’s in?”
Bob Vickrey is a longtime Palisadian whose columns appear in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle. He is a member of the Board of Contributors of the Waco Tribune-Herald. You can read more of his columns on his website: http://bobvickrey.net/