I don't know how this character has managed to live for seven pages, despite me not really having a good idea. As much as I love writing comedy, from a theoretical perspective, I hate writing comedy from a technical perspective. I think good comedy builds up to a specific moment where the protagonist of the piece either achieves something or sees his or her goals crushed. But, just like tragedy, that needs to happen through their own fault. Simply having outside forces conspire to crush the hero is not funny, just cruel. That's why Frasier is hilarious; everything that goes wrong is because Frasier and Niles are flawed characters, who we still want to root for despite their flaws. The obvious influence of sitcoms should be becoming more apparent in the pages below.
I don't know yet if I like Lucy. There's no reason I picked Lucy except that I was thinking of sitcom-y (not to be confused with situational Communist) sounding names, and the first one to come to my mind, obviously, was Lucy. I don't even know if I really have a vivid image of what anyone looks like (except Christine is short, her date is handsome, and Sam is plain, but not unattractive.)
And, yes. Sam is named after that Sam.
* * *
The next afternoon, I was hostessing at the Olive Garden. I liked to open the restaurant because the bread smells great and there aren’t as many people. This is bad for my tips and my social life, but there’s something to be said about a nice, quiet, reflective afternoon. Plus, as hostess, tips aren’t as important. This is especially important after the day I had had. That quiet, peaceful feeling was broken when I heard the baritone of dread: “Good morning Lucy.”
“Sam, I didn’t know you were working today,” I said, pleasantly. It was true, not in as such that I wasn’t aware he was scheduled, but in that I had deliberately planned my schedule to avoid him. A more accurate statement would have been: “As of schedule day, you were not working today.”
“Jerome’s come down with something,” Sam said, hanging up his jacket. “So, you and me are going to be opening the O.G. together.”
I don’t know why I didn’t like Sam. It might be because he said things like O.G. in an attempt to be cool. He’s a nice enough looking guy, and he’s devoted to his parents. So devoted, in fact, Christine tells me, that he still lives with them. I don’t know how Christine knows this; I assume it is because after a few margaritas she can be a bitch. Which I love about her, since it is never directed at me.
I liked being a hostess more than waitressing. I was in that odd phase of working at a restaurant where they just sort of put me anywhere and paid me the lowest rate. We seated the first few guests — the usual sorts, clandestine meetings, business lunches, retired folks, family get-togethers.
“There’s so many people in the afternoons,” Sam said. This was another reason I didn’t like him. He was always wrong when he should be filling drinks.
I just sort of nodded and sat the next group of people. They were a cute enough couple. Or maybe they were on a business meeting. I hated when women dressed so that you couldn’t tell if they were on a date or negotiating. “Dates are a kind of negotiation,” Christine had said after I answered when she asked if she looked professional enough. It was the sort of thing that would have “scandalized” my mother. To which, I’m referring to Christine’s top that day, not her answer. Mom was a practical sort.
“What do you think they’re all doing?” Sam said when he should’ve been refilling breadsticks.
“They’re here on business or lunch dates,” I said.
“People really go out at lunch?”
“Of course,” I said as I tried to stack the buzzers so that they were nice and neat. “Some people are so busy the only time they get to see each other is during lunch. Your table’s food is up.”
The other reason people have lunch dates, I thought after Sam left, is that they don’t want to be seen together or are busy in the evening. That thought is what sunk my heart when I saw Christine come in with a tall, dashing brown-skinned man in a suit and tie. She was wearing a black business suit and skirt combination that I’m pretty sure would have also scandalized my mother. The heels were cute though. Christine was short enough that she could get away with pretty much any size heels, especially when her date was six-foot gorgeous.
“Table for two,” I asked. He nodded, and Christine smiled at me. I sat her passive-aggressively in Fionna’s section, because her date looked like a big tipper.
I was back at the front and was helping with the chores out there when Sam appeared again. “Hey, Lucy, I wanted to ask you something. Are you free Friday night?”
I hated how Sam always asked if I was ‘free’ some night. It was almost as smooth as asking if someone had any plans Friday night. He had asked Fionna if she had any plans one night, and she said: “No, and it’s going to stay that way.” Fionna was the sort of strong, independent woman I could only wish to be.
Either way, Sam could know if I was free. The schedule was in the back. I knew how to use it to avoid him; I’m pretty sure he could figure out how to do the opposite. Sort of like a reverse-look up directory.
“Sort of, there’s just this thing I have to do that night,” I said.
“Well, what about Friday afternoon? We’re both so busy, that’s probably the best time we can see each other outside of work,” He said.
I never replayed conversations I had had with a man as fast as I did just then. “Your table’s food is up.”
“No it isn’t, I just brought it out.”
“You have more than one table Sam.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Check their drinks,” I said, shooing him away from the front. While he was gone, I made frantic gestures for Christine and held an emergency conference in the ladies’ room. I am not proud of this.
* * *
“So, do you like him?” Christine asked.
“No, that’s why I blew him off.”
“I meant my date,” Christine said. “His name is Peter, and he works at Wells Fargo. He’s one of their lawyers.”
“We came here to discuss problems, not miracles,” I said.
“I thought we decided you were going to just tell him about your night job.”
“That won’t work now,” I said.
“Well, someone put the crazy idea in his head that people can go on dates in the afternoon.”
“You’re not blaming this on me, are you?”
I hadn’t initially planned on it. But, it seemed as good a way to get her to give me an idea as any. “Not you, specifically. Just every happy couple staring into each other’s eyes between glances at their phones and watches to make sure they clock back in on time.”
“Fine. Just tell him he’s a great guy—”
“But that I’m already seeing someone?”
Christine seemed to think about this for a second. “That’s so much better than what I was thinking. Just remember, if you’re going to lie, you have to keep it believable. How’s my hair?”
“Perfect,” I said. She gave me a little hug, checked herself in the mirror and left. I looked at myself in the mirror too, and I practiced exactly what I was going to say in my head. “Oh, I’m so flattered, Sam, but I’m afraid I’m seeing someone. We’re just getting serious, you know how that is.”
Then I remembered that Christine told me to keep it believable, so I mentally cut out the part about Sam knowing how that is.