See if you can spot the numerous faux pas committed by both me and the patrons I encountered. The following is a true story.
Last Friday evening Mike and I were having dinner at Sostanza Trattoria in Madison Park with our friend Meredith. As we ordered wine, the restaurant was just filling up for the night.
I happened to glance over to the table next to us and see a nice-looking couple seated next to the fireplace. I stared for a second at the gentleman before realizing he looked familiar.
“Doesn’t that look just like Phil Eaton?” I asked Meredith. We both attended Seattle Pacific University (me for only a year) of which he was president.
“Eh, kind of, I suppose,” she replied, not finding this the least bit interesting. I considered how to redeem the topic.
“Remember how he used to invite students to his home once a year, to make us feel connected to him or whatever, but we were all just annoyed because he lived in this fabulous house while we’re all killing ourselves to pay $25,000 a year in tuition?” I ventured.
Then we were off and running.
“Yes!” she said. “It was criminal what they paid him, and remember how he would drive to the school in his A6 and it made all of us cringe? University presidents are so overpaid. They’re just glorified speech-makers,” she concluded.
“Oh Eaton can’t hold a candle to UW’s president,” I added. “He’s ranked among the highest paid in the US. It’s absurd. I read he makes $900,000 a year.”
Having fully vented our grievances on university presidents, we moved on to happier topics. Soon we were laughing, enjoying our meal and our bottle of local Washington red.
“Excuse me, you all really need to be quiet,” a stout woman in her fifties was suddenly standing over us, speaking to us like we were in second grade. “This is a public restaurant and people are trying to eat in peace and you’re laughing so the whole place can hear you. You need to speak quietly to each other so only those at your own table can hear you.”
We were all so stunned by her pretentious speech that we simply stared at her, mouths agape.
She returned to her seat without another word, and none of us could recover the conversation for the next two minutes because of the offense. Gradually, because we couldn’t help it, we giggled about the absurdity of someone speaking to us like children, especially in the context of any place outside of a library.
A few minutes later we heard a woman sitting across from the Phil-Eaton-look-alike laughing happily. Mike couldn’t help himself so he leaned over and said, “Hey, keep it down; this is a public place.” We just about died, this was so funny, but we weren’t sure if she would agree.
“Oh you’re such a party pooper!” she laughed back at him. Fearing that she would think he was serious, I leaned over to her with one hand covering my mouth and explained, “We just got scolded in those exact words by that woman over there.”
Suddenly, she was totally intrigued. “Really?” she said with enthusiasm. “Oh you must be joking. It’s Friday night! This is a restaurant! We can be as loud as we want!” she said, swinging her glass of red wine around to face us. “Who is that woman? I mean, honestly!”
The relief! The balm to our souls! Despite being the same age as the crotchety “party pooper” who rained on our parade, this woman was fabulous. I especially liked her purple-framed glasses.
After another hearty exchange, she returned her focus to her table. Meredith and I immediately agreed to name her Viv. There was no other name for a Madison Park socialite who loved red wine and young people with equal fervor. However, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that her husband was familiar, so I turned to Mike and Meredith and resumed my earlier verse of, “He looks so familiar! I can’t shake that he’s someone I know or someone famous or something.” They both rolled their eyes.
“If you really want me to, I can just try to find him on my iPhone,” Meredith offered in a last-ditch effort to shut me up. “We’ll just start Googling Seattle celebrities.”
“OH MY GOSH!! OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH!!” Suddenly I knew exactly who it was.
“IT’S MARK EMMERT. It’s the freaking UW PRESIDENT,” I explained. “I am a COMPLETE IDIOT.”
“WHAT?!” Mike exclaimed. “How could you not recognize him when you went to that school? Do you realize we were just talking so loudly about his salary that we got ‘shushed!?'” We all looked at each other in the face-draining panic that accompanies such realizations. We had just criticized the husband of our darling Viv, the one we wanted to be our friend and take us around to cocktail parties. Had they heard? Could they have?
I reasoned with them. “Why would she have spoken to us if she heard us chastising her for being wealthy?” I asked. “Come on, Viv loves us!”
By this time Meredith had pulled up an image of them on her iPhone. Granted, the image was at least five years old, but we held up the phone, looked over at them: confirmed.
“She’s not Viv,” Meredith read from Wikipedia. “She’s DeLaine.” Of course — even more of a president’s wife’s name than the one we gave her.
“Oh and you were almost right,” she continued reading from her phone. “He’s not just one of the top-paid presidents. It’s even better: he’s ranked second. SECOND. Bested only by Ohio State’s president. Emmert makes $906,500 per year.”
Of course he does; our Viv/DeLaine deserves it.