It was an enormously generous birthday gift, and I’d been waiting for a special occasion to use it: a $250 gift certificate to one of the fanciest restaurants in the area. You know, one of those eateries that never have a VW bus or motorcycle in the parking lot.
I figured that in a high-toned place like that, my $250 gift certificate would get my wife and me a couple of draft beers and a cheese plate. Cheddar, maybe. Not brie.
As we entered, a maitre d’ met us at the front of the house. If you were casting a film calling for a stuffy headwaiter, this guy would be your first, second and third choice.
He sniffed, “Do you have reservations, sir?”
I thought to myself, “Yea. Mostly about you.”
His haughty gaze seemed to suggest that he just knew I was the kind of guy who was bearing a gift certificate.
“The last name’s Cashman,” I said.
There was some awkward silence, followed by some awkward fidgeting.
The maitre d’ snorted. “I am afraid, Mr. Cushman,” he finally announced, “That a dinner jacket is required.”
“The name is Cashman,” I replied. Then I looked down at my sweater vest. As sweater vests go, it was a very nice one.
“Look, my fine chap,” my wife said to the man.
“My fine chap?” I thought. The only thing chapped about this stuffed shirt was his upper lip.
My wife continued, laying it on even thicker. “We have journeyed some distance to have repast at your most excellent establishment. Could you not make an exception this once?”
But the fine chap would not yield.
“I’m very sorry,” he said, not looking at all sorry, much less very. “Our restaurant dress code requires that our male patrons wear a dinner jacket or sports coat.”
I thought of the several dinner jackets and sports coats I had in my closet at home. They were carefully hung next to my sweater vests.
But home was several miles and a toll bridge away.
“OK,” I said. “Hold our reservation, please. We’ll be back shortly.”
My wife and I returned to our car and drove three blocks to a strip mall. We parked and I ran into a store. It didn’t take me long to make my purchase – and it was just my size: a 42 long.
When we arrived back in the restaurant parking lot, I put on my newly purchased sports coat, remembering to place the $250 certificate into the inside pocket.
We strolled back into the place where the maitre d’ was again doing his job as gatekeeper. He stared at my new attire with dropping jaw and arching brow. But I had him – and he knew it.
Resignedly, he escorted us to a table in a corner – perhaps so my bright plaid sports coat from Value Village would be less conspicuous.
We had a wonderful dinner, spending only 60 bucks of our own money along with the certificate.
But nowadays, regardless of where we go to eat, I keep a sports coat handy in the car trunk.
You know, just in case they start requiring one at Taco Time.
Pat Cashman can be reached at email@example.com and at his podcast at peculiarpodcast.com. Pat’s new weekly local comedy sketch show, “the 206,” airs following SNL on KING 5.