“This is kind of last minute, but I get into San Francisco tonight and am catching a red eye back to New York tomorrow. Would you be free tonight or tomorrow for dinner or drinks?”
I hadn’t seen DS, one of my roommates from college, in over a year. DS had co-organized our five-year college reunion back in June, but I decided not to go because of job hunting and thesis writing. Lame. Then there were the Holidays, but my time on the East Coast was too short, and I couldn’t find time to catch up. Double Lame.
I was supposed to pick DS up from the Financial District around 6:30. The plan was to catch up over dinner and then drop him off at SFO before his flight back. On the way over, I was faced with a conundrum: where should we go for dinner? The last time he was in the Bay Area coincided with my birthday in 2005, where he had a chance to try out Berkeley’s La Med. There wouldn’t be time to make a transbay journey for this trip, so I tried thinking of places in my new neighborhood. But try as I might, I couldn’t come up with a decent place.
Pitter patter. Despite the rains, I managed to reach the Financial District in time, and DS ran into the car. I started driving, almost instinctively, to a place I’d been to quite a few times before: Manga Rosa. I like their food, and it seemed like a quiet, classy place to talk. Luck was really on my side because we found parking almost instantly and walked into the restaurant.
“Hi, I didn’t make any reservations, but would you be able to seat the two of us?” I asked in that super-friendly, super-flirty voice and wide smile I reserve for occasions like this.
“Hmm… it’s going to be tough,” smiled back the femme maitre d. “I can seat you, but it has to be by 8.”
“An hour and a half?” I asked. She nodded. My roommate had to be at the airport by 9, but he seemed to be okay with it, too. I was totally confused, but after a few more exchanges, I realized we had to be DONE with dinner by 8. Excellent!
As we sat down, it occurred to me that it’s January: Dine About Town month! Like many other restaurants in SF, there’s a special prix-fixe menu that offers a discounted three-course meal. We both ended up ordering from it, began an excellent meal, and spent quite a bit of time catching up.
It was time for the third course when all of a sudden, the lights dimmed, and loud music started playing. This had never happened those other times I’d been here. Another “all of a sudden” followed, and four scantily clad women wearing large, feathery headdresses stood on top of the bar and started jiggle dancing. I don’t know if jiggle dancing is a technical term, but it describes what we saw.
I started recalling whom else I’d been to this place with and contemplated what might have happened if those evenings had been similarly interrupted. DS was cool with it, though, and the Jigglettes eventually made it out to dance with the diners, randomly selecting people up from their seats.
I had just finished telling DS that I had started taking salsa classes at work. “That kind of looks like salsa. Now’s your chance to show off your moves.” He looked at me expectantly.
Saved by the bill. We made our way out and took a short stroll around the block. I asked him about reunion, and he mentioned some names I hadn’t thought about in years. The traffic had died down by the time we started driving, and it was a scenic, peaceful ride back to the airport.
The unexpected reunion somehow came together in the end.