The setting for this story was a tiny little restaurant on Main Street in Tewksbury. It was called Sauces and was a new concept idea from the owners of a fairly successful restaurant a few towns over. The idea was that there was an array of sauces available, and you could pick three that would complement your entree, for dipping. Seemed clever, right? It wasn’t. The restaurant didn’t do well at all.
As a waiter, I’d go most nights without more than half dozen tables. Sometimes making less than $20 throughout a whole shift.
A few times a month, I’d work up in the secluded bar area with our awesome bartender, Jen. She was teaching me how to make drinks. Not because I wanted to be a bartender, but just because it was never that busy, and we both wanted to occupy some time.
The bar was completely closed off with glass and two separate stairways, one for the customers and one for the staff. Smoking indoors was still legal at this point, so we would seat smokers up in the bar at one of the five or six tables that were up there.
One night while working up at the bar, I was tending to a table of two women. Friends, likely in their late thirties, maybe early forties. If you know me at all, you know I’m somewhat of a bullshitter, a real salesman, so to speak. So when I waited tables for all those years in my teens and early twenties, I really laid it on. When you make your money by bringing people food, the nicer you are, the more money you make.
For some reason, with these two women, I laid it on thicker than usual; laughing hysterically at their jokes, listening to their stories, really pretending to care about what they were saying. Ultimately all I really cared about was how much of a tip they were going to leave me.
She never actually gave me her name, but I later found out that it was Rose. When Rose told me the story about how the two of them had just come back from a cruise, I told her the story of how I’d gone on a cruise with my family when I was 15. We laughed and told some details about the stories from the cruise ships.
I excused myself to make a couple of drinks for one of the waitresses, and eventually brought back their bill.
They paid cash, left a decent tip, and a note. Written on one of the napkins was an AOL email address, and “Email me. You’re cute.”
This sort of thing never happened to me. Like, literally, never before this. And, come to think of it, never again.
I scooped it up, put it in my pocket, and figured what the hell. At the very least, I’d thank her, tell her I was flattered, and decline any offer for a date or whatever weird thing would be coming my way if I emailed her.
I told Jen what had happened. She laughed this amazing laugh that she had, wrapped me in one of her giant bear hugs (she’d always say “you go top, I’ll take the shoulder in the face”), and told me not to bother.
These days, the AOL email address would be a tip off of something bad impending, since no one uses AOL anymore. But back then, it wasn’t a bad sign. In fact, I had an AOL email address at the time, too. I didn’t judge.
I waited until the next day to email her. I wish I still had the exact contents of the email. But it was something like the following:
This is Mike, the waiter from last night. Thanks so much for the great tip you left. That was really sweet.
I’m really flattered that you left your email for me. 🙂
I fired it off and went about my day. Which, knowing myself, was probably hanging out online or watching TV.
She emailed me back a few hours later. Again, this is just a summary of a memory all of these years later:
You’re so adorable. I could just eat you up.
Let’s go have dinner together.
This is where I should have just politely declined. I should have said “No, thank you. I’ve got a girlfriend” or something equally as non-insulting. My early-twenties mind didn’t think that way, though. So what I ended up responding with was something to the effect of:
That’s a sweet offer, thank you.
But aren’t I a bit too young for you?
“Too young for you”, also known as — in the mind of an older woman — YOU ARE SO FUCKING OLD. In hindsight, I realize that I was more or less calling her old, but I definitely remember phrasing it as “I’m too young for you” and not “you’re too old for me”. Though, I suppose, it’s basically saying the same thing, so what’s the difference?
She never wrote me back, it just sort of went away.
Three days later, while back at Sauces mostly standing around doing nothing, the boss, Bob, called me into the office.
“Michael,” (he always called me Michael, not Mike. I still don’t know why) he said. “This is Detective Robertson, from Tewksbury PD.”
“Hello,” I said, shaking his hand.
“Thanks Bob, could you give us a few minutes?”
That wasn’t a problem for Bob. Right up to the bar to light another cigarette he went. I don’t remember ever working at a restaurant where the manager smoked so much all day every day.
“Michael,” he said, handing me his card. “We’ve gotten some reports of harassing emails from Rose”
“Who’s Rose?” I asked immediately.
He told me her last name, as if that was supposed to spark some sort of immediate recognition.
“I don’t know her.”
“She called us the other day, saying that you were harassing her via email.”
He showed me a piece of paper with her email address written on it. I immediately recognized it as the woman from the other night.
“Oh, her name’s Rose? She never told me.”
“So you know this email?”
“Yeah. She was in here the other night hitting on me. She left it on a napkin when she left.”
“And why would you be harassing her?”
“She said I was harassing her? I only emailed her twice.”
“She did,” he said. “We haven’t gotten the emails yet. But can you tell me what happened?”
I walked him through the story from start to end. When I told him what I’d said about the age difference, he laughed outloud.
“Son,” he said. “You never say that to a woman. Ever.”
“I didn’t know. I was just trying to let her down gently.”
He asked me to write down a quick summary of what had happened and sign it, so he could take it back to the station with him.
After he thanked me, we left Bob’s office and he gave a wave to Bob as if to say thanks.
By this point, Bob had the entire wait staff — which were all women, except for me — and some of the cooks up at the bar, likely gossiping about what was happening. By the time I walked up the stairs and opened the door, they were all staring at me.
“Holy shit.” I said as I entered. “That chick from the other night called the cops.”
“Shut. Up.” Jen said from behind the bar.
“Wait, tell the rest of us what’s going on,” Bob spoke up.
I filled them in on the story, most of them staring at me like I was reciting the recipe for curing cancer. It was such a stupid story, but one that they all wanted to hear anyway.
That was seemingly the end of the story, having heard it all that night.
Until a week later, that is.
Detective Robertson made his way back to Sauces and asked to speak with me again.
When we sat down in Bob’s office, Detective Robertson plopped down a thick manilla folder in front of me. It had to be four inches thick and it landed with a great, deafening thud.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“That, Michael, is Rose’s history. Once I sat down and really dug into her, I quickly found that this isn’t the first time she’s done this sort of thing.”
“Shut up. Seriously?!”
“Seriously. Usually it gets a lot farther than it got with you. Sometimes she makes the guy her boy toy for a while, and then files a complaint for some reason or another when the relationship doesn’t work out.”
“This is the best thing that’s happened to me all day,” I said with a bit too much excitement.
“I figured you want to know, so I stopped by on my way home.”
“Wait, so I’m not in trouble.”
“No, you aren’t. You really never were.”
“She hasn’t specifically broken any laws yet. All she’s done so far is waste a whole lot of police time.”
“But she’s likely to break a law at some point, don’t you think?”
“Probably. And when she does, we’ll get her for it.”
I wish, looking back, he’d have let me read some of the other stories in that folder. I imagine I could have written a whole book about Rose.
I told the rest of the Sauces crew what had happened. And, like you reading this, they probably didn’t believe it. But I swear, every word of it’s true.
And through this story I learned that you never, ever, ever judge a woman’s age just by looking at her. And you most definitely never call her old.