JohnRamblings

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My Name Is John And I’ll Be Your Waiter Tonight

Saturday, February 15, I’ll be at one of my favorite annual charity events – the United Cerebral Palsy of Dane County Celebrity Banquet &  Auction. It’s a terrific time, supporting a great cause, and guess what? I could be your waiter! Yours!

Tickets are $95 per person, which, OK, I know isn’t cheap. But it’s a delightful evening, and one that’s near and dear to my heart. Plus, the food here’s a lot better  than other such shindigs. Trust me: the steak is fully edible, and the rubber quotient on the chicken is incredibly low indeed.

Look, you don’t go to these things for the grub. You go because people need help, and you may be in a position to help. And if you’re gonna help anyway, why not make a meal out of it? I’m already the waiter for a table of 13, but if you and some pals wanna pull your resources, or of your company wants to get behind a really swell and worthwhile cause, I AM NOT GOING TO STOP YOU! Seriously. I’d love to be your waiter!

Do I look like the kind of waiter who'd spill soup on someone?  Not that this is the reason soup is no longer served here, you understand.

Do I look like the kind of waiter who’d spill soup on someone?
Not that this is the reason soup is no longer served here, you understand.

If you’re a gamer, as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a big selling point to this soirée: the silent auction part of the evening will include some incredible board game packages, very generously donated by Steve Jackson Games, Out of the Box, Asmodee and Cryptozoic! I may even bring along a copy of our new game, Double Feature, to test out.

Why am I passionate about this particular United Cerebral Palsy event? Well, mainly because I see the results of their work every year: the families and kids they help. It’s remarkable work, and I’m proud to be a  tiny part of it. This is the UCP’s main fundraiser, and it deserves all the support it can get.

But there’s another reason this event is important to me. A reason involving a hot girl, a red dress, and a every-so-slightly tipsy waiter.

Twenty-one years ago, a lifetime, really, I was an editorial cartoonist at the Wisconsin State Journal. It was my second time as a UCP server, and I was dutifully taking care of my table.

I was also enjoying – I’ll admit it – a bit of a buzz. It was a fun crowd, and I needed a fun time. I had broken up with my girlfriend of the past couple of years, a fortnight earlier. And by “broken up with,” I mean “was dumped like stale beer down the drain the day after Oktoberfest.”

Point being, there I was, a bit buzzed, and unapologetically flirtatious** , following two weeks of shallow, somewhat ridiculous self-pity. So when another waiter told me that a lady at his table wished to meet me, I said “sure.” What was the worst that could happen?

Dashing, even is sepia! Note: drink in hand may not make it to intended recipient.

Dashing, even is sepia!
Note: drink in hand may not make it to intended recipient.

I crossed the substantial dining room of the Cherokee Country Club, passing table after table of corporate fundraising jollity, drink in hand. Then I saw her: a stunningly beautiful blond in a gorgeous red dress. I probably didn’t audibly gasp, and managed to remain more of less upright, but it wasn’t easy. This woman was dazzling. She had – I recall it clearly – a terrific smile, sparkling, enchanting eyes, and legs that just wouldn’t quit. I was, to be blunt, a goner.

But wait! There’s more! She was ridiculously easy to talk to.

I can’t emphasize this bit enough. I’m not the most comfortable cartoonist on the planet when it comes to chatting with strangers – especially drop-dead dazzling ones of the opposite sex. “Blathering” is often involved. Also, a certain amount of knuckle-dragging. But this was different: I felt oddly…comfortable talking with this woman. She was smart as a whip, yes. And hilarious, to boot. It was all small talk, but it was fun small talk. I felt relaxed and at ease, and didn’t even need Sam Adams as my wingman.

Anyway, she  wanted to say “hi” because we had worked together at the University of Wisconsin student newspaper, the Daly Cardinal, seven years earlier. I remembered this. I remembered her. I remembered thinking she was cute, at the time. I also remembered she had a boyfriend: a football player, to make matters worse. Who could crush me. Like a zit. Oh, my, yes. I remembered it all, the way one tends remembers gorgeous, unobtainable people, and other near-death experiences.

All that aside, the chat was delightful, and when I made my way  back to the table I was waiting on, it was with no small amount of regret. They were all fine folks, my table, yes, sir.  But they weren’t her. As the night wound down, I couldn’t get this gorgeous blonde in the hot red dress out of my mind.

And that’s when one of the women at my table, even tipsier and more flirtatious than I – I know, right? – slipped me her phone number.

A phone number? Someone slipped me their phone number? Look, I’ll be honest. This is the kind of thing that happens to other people. In movies! Yet here I was, with an actual phone number an actual LADY-TYPE PERSON gave me!

Self-confidence boosted, I strode back to that other table, courage increasing with every step, to ask the gorgeous blonde in the hot red dress if she’s like to get together for coffee sometime.*** You know. Coffee. Only coffee. As people who once worked together at a student newspaper do. Just coffee. No big deal.

She said “sure,” and two weeks later, we were dating.

Which is how I met Judith, my wife, and the love of my life.

And she’s even more amazing and gorgeous than the night she called me over to her table, twenty-one years ago.

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So, that’s why I want to do all in my poet to help United Cerebral Palsy of Dane County.

Now look, I’m not saying that, by buying a table (or – better! – convincing your company to buy a table) at the UCP Celebrity Banquet & Auction, you’ll find the love of your life.

But honestly…do you want to risk it?

Buy a table here!

          – John

* The definition of “celebrity” in mid-sized to small cities is a liberal one, indeed.

** I am an unrepentant flirt. This was one of the rare occasions I was glad of it.

*** Admittedly not the result the woman at my table who gave me the phone number was probably seeking.

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