It’s hard to explain how I felt my first night at college, after all the bags and boxes had been unloaded from my parents’ van and they had finally left campus to head back home. My roommate Dale and I stood amidst a mess of unorganized clutter, our plastic mattresses left unmade, rap music thumping out of Dale’s stereo, when we decided it would be best to get a bite to eat before putting any serious effort into getting our home for the next year organized.
Luckily Jesse, our next door neighbor, was a townie that new area. He suggested an excursion to the local Hooters, known mostly for the quality of their hot wings. For some reason my moral compass stuttered at this suggestion. I had never been to a Hooters before and felt the same sort of naughty anxiety one feels stepping into a strip club for the first time. On the one hand, I was a hormonal eighteen-year-old with just as much desire to see women in tight shirts and tiny shorts as the next hormonal eighteen-year-old, but on the other hand I felt there was something inherently sad about women that needed to flaunt their assets just to make ends meet.
Hormones trumped morality, and so the three of us went to Hooters.
This was in the days before Buffalo Wild Wings, so hot wings weren’t as en vogue as they are now, and truth be told that might have been my first experience with that particular food item. I just remember eating wings and Caesar salads as my main sources of sustenance all through college. And truthfully, Hooters does good wings.
But they also do lovely ladies, which as young men carrying around the proverbial oyster shuckers on their first nights alone in the real world, we all were feeling especially flirtatious.
Dale especially poured the compliments onto our bubbly, busty waitress. Like I said, we were feeling confident as burgeoning men, so Dale tried his hand at serious womanizing for the first time as a college student. He pulled out all the tricks in hopes of sparking some sort of romantic dialogue with the filly—flattering remarks, shameless self-promotion, maybe even a sly flex of a bicep—but it became very clear to Jesse and I about halfway through dinner that it wasn’t happening. Despite Dale’s better efforts, this lovely young woman just wasn’t having it. She batted away every advance with the polite grace only a Hooters waitress would have had the experience to do. The woman had only three gifts, and turning down horny guys was the only one of them not resting comfortably in her bra.
And it was those other two gifts that perhaps blinded Dale from seeing what had become so clear to Jesse and me. So at the end of our meal, when the waitress brought over our bill, Dale asked her for her phone number.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” she said with a gracious smile. “We’re not allowed to give out our phone numbers to customers.”
Dale translated that to read, “I’d love to give you my phone number and make sweet babies with you, but my stupid boss won’t let me. If only there were some other way this forbidden love could work…”
So, to fight through his entirely fictional roadblock to true love, Dale left the waitress a $20 tip and a napkin with his name and phone number on it. Jesse and I laughed about it, knowing that he’d probably just spent the worst twenty bucks of his life, but Dale left confident.
As we walked out of the store, I remember saying, “Dale, you know she’s never going to call you, right? I can’t believe you just left her such a huge tip.”
“You’ll see,” he said, swaggering back to Jesse’s car. And with his hand on the door handle, we did see. We saw very clearly.
“Excuse me!” it was the waitress, bouncing gloriously toward us, waving at Dale with a smile as she did.
“Told you,” Dale said smugly. Jesse and I looked at each other incredulously. No way, we thought. Absolutely no way.
The waitress slowed to a stop and extended a hand to Dale, and in that hand lay a Styrofoam to-go box filled with my confident new roommate’s leftover hot wings.
“You forgot your food,” she told him, handing it over.
“Thanks,” Dale replied, sheepishly heading into the car to escape the embarrassing moment. Jesse and I quickly followed and of course chuckled for the entire drive back to campus.
That’s pretty much the end of the story, but because it’s important and I know everybody wants to know—no, the waitress never called. But I’m positive she spent every last penny of that twenty dollar tip.