But I’m Happy, You Know?

When you have a reservation at a resort restaurant, you check in a half hour before your reservation time so you can get your table approximately 20 minutes past your reservation time.

But RG, you ask, how is that a reservation? Trust me, in resort time, many reservations are a modest goal that hosts try to meet. If you know this ahead of time, you are not disappointed when it’s your turn to wait with a pager for your reserved table.

“You folks want something to drink while you’re waiting?” asked the bartender as he planted two bev naps in front of us, poured peanuts in a glass and placed it in front of us, too, then wiped down an invisible spot on the bar–all in one smooth, unbroken motion.

At first, I only focused on this bartender’s fluid movements. Where was I? New York? Miami? Certainly not central Florida, where the predictable boundary-establishing, must-ask question, “Where are you folks from?” was, finally and thankfully, not asked.

“A drink would be great,” I answered. “How about a glass of the Pinot Gris?”

“You’ll love it. I do,” he said.

Again, in one seamless motion, he provided the wine glass and poured the perfect-sized taste. A taste? Of a wine by the glass? Here?

“That’s nice,” I said after I had sipped the taste and watched him pour a generous glass. He smiled at me, as if to say, “To you!” And I was simply and immediately caught up by his shining dark eyes and tiny left dimple, and his undeniable being–all in that smile.

So I asked the predictable boundary-establishing, must-ask question. Because now I was curious about the deft style behind this bartender’s technique, and the honest warmth of his smile.

“Where are you from?” I really wanted to know.

“Oh, far from here,” he laughed.

“How did I know that?” I laughed in return.

“I am from Chicago, but I have been down here for a while. A long time. This is very far from Chicago, you know?”

Oh, I know. “Well, the weather is better here, I think,” I stammered, the way people do when they are rendered speechless by a layered answer and only have a lighthearted rejoinder to offer.

Again that smile. Those eyes.

“Yes, but I miss Chicago.” And he told us where he had worked, for years and years, in Chicago. And he told me about the celebrities and local VIPs and everyone else he had met and befriended, in Chicago. He had overseen a huge staff. He had been a Big Boss, in Chicago.

“And now I am here,” he gestured, grinning, waving to the cramped set-up of surprisingly decent spirits displayed behind him.

“Clearly in training,” I laughed.

“Ha! Yes! In training,” he laughed in return. “But I am here for my kids,” he added, no longer laughing. He paused. “And that makes me happy, you know?”

“Oh, well, that’s great!” I said in the awkward way people do when they are unsure of how to respond to a personal admission from someone they don’t know.

“They miss Chicago, too. But my ex, their mom, she moved them here. So, now I am here, too, for them.” He poured two more drinks for two more pager people, cashed out another couple, helped the other bartender void a sale, then returned to us a few minutes later.

“My one son is graduating from high school this year. He is going back to Chicago for college,” he continued. “He cannot wait. The other one is younger, though” he said, and again he paused. “Too young, you know?” he said.

We looked at one another for a few seconds, neither of us knowing what to say next.

“Too young to leave?” I asked.

Again, we exchanged looks, and I wished we hadn’t strayed quite so far from the conversation topics that had encouraged him to smile his magnificent smile.

“Maybe in a few years, I think, he will be old enough to tell a judge what he really wants,” he said softly. “And then we will move back to Chicago. But for now, I don’t want to do anything against their mother. It’s not right, you know?”

I know that you know, I thought. Because I had no answer.

“But, I am happy here, too, you know?” he said, clearly shifting away from the not-so-happy reality. “And this is your beautiful daughter, yes?” he asked, nodding toward RG Daughter, smiling once again.

We chatted about her college and her major and how lucky I am, and all the while he smiled that smile.

Our pager flashed, and I counted out the cash I owed him. As the host motioned us to follow, I told my daughter to go on ahead, that I would catch up. I pulled out a card I rarely leave for anyone, and scribbled a note wishing him a return to Chicago much sooner rather than later.

Maybe he read it, maybe he tossed it in the trash. It doesn’t matter so very much. What matters is he left a job and a city he loves to be with his kids–on everyone else’s terms. Which makes him happy, you know?






10 responses to “But I’m Happy, You Know?”

  1. Aaron DeLay Avatar

    Amen to honest and down to earth moments in life.

  2. Lisa Avatar

    Cheers to him for being such a selfless parent!

  3. Mary Avatar

    I’m sure you know all the great places there, but if you’re in Disney, a couple of places we don’t miss:

    Spoodles at the Boardwalk – Mediterranean food, casual, with the doors open onto the Boardwalk for people watching.

    Wolfgang Puck’s in Downtown DIsney – the BEST sushi!!!! Love it!!

    I’m jealous – we love DIsney and will probably go back this summer, or for THanksgiving. Have a great time.

  4. Natalie Avatar

    That is really sweet.

  5. Julie Avatar

    It’s great that he moved there so he could be with his kids as often as possible.

    However, when people constantly end they’re sentences with “you know” (or something similar) and turn it into a question, I get annoyed. Either say what you want or ask me a question rather than ask me to validate your decision, opinion, etc.

  6. chocolatier Avatar

    That is amazing. And not being asked the “Where are you from?” question-golden. I’ve been in FL for 3 years now and still get it. I answer either with an “I’m a local” or my original hometown, and see how people react. . .

  7. Margarita Avatar

    I hope it all works out for him. I have a question though, perhaps I’m slow, but what card did you pull out to write him the note on?

  8. restaurant Gal Avatar

    Margarita–A Restaurant Gal.com card–tiny little business card that I leave for servers and bartenders after I pay a check (with cash)–but only rarely, and only when we seemed to have connected in some way, however briefly. I do not do this locally–only when I am out of town.

  9. Thija Avatar

    When something truely affects me, it makes me cry (even of joy, you know?). Your entry did.

    Don’t we all wish our father would have acted that way under such circumstances ? I’m impressed that he’s the kind of man who obviously can fully appreciate what he gets in return from his children and therefore makes the right choice between them and career – since very unfortunately he can’t have both right now.

    And I’m not surprised that you are the person with whom he’s having this kind of spontaneous profound talk.

  10. Eric Avatar

    This could have been one of many restaurants near Disney, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was at the Polynesian resort. Something seems familiar … I think I may have met that bartender before. Granted, I could be completely mistaken, its just a gut feeling.