I admit that my restaurant of choice, the Applebee’s in Western Hills, showed very little imagination on my part, but it was going to be fun seeing my friends Jan and Jim again. It had been too long.
We had a good waitress. She was young and cheery. Looking at the menu, I asked her how good the BBQ chicken salad was.
“Oh, it’s great,” she said.
“Really?” I asked. “Would you tell me if it wasn’t great? Would you tell me if it sucked?”
The waitress gave me a surprised, odd look, and Jan and Jim were probably looking at each other, saying to themselves, “There he goes again.”
I’m very aware that my personality is a little off. I don’t like to give stock responses or straight-laced, automatic replies to those around me, especially strangers. I like to throw people off and have a little fun.
My father used to call this tomfoolery. Others say I’m being sarcastic, but I call it having a good time.
I like it when strangers give me a double take. I like it when they can’t quite figure me out.
When a person asks me, “How ya doing?” my normal response is, “You don’t really care.”
Whenever I hear that overused “Have a nice day” remark, I usually come back with something like, “So what about my evening? You don’t give a damn about that?”
That waitress at Applebee’s figured out quickly the kind of guy I am. She knew I was just kidding around, and that’s how it is with most people. Most people I encounter have a sense of humor.
Some of my favorite people to throw off and to kid around with are the cashiers at the Kroger store I go to in Westwood.
“How are you today?” the young, friendly cashier asked me as I handed her my Kroger card.
“I’m fine, how are you?” I said.
“I’m great!” she replied.
“Really? You’re great?”
“Well, no,” she said back, “but we have to be friendly here at Kroger.”
“Don’t give in to the man,” I told her. “Be yourself. Don’t let him turn you into some kind of corporate robot.”
She laughed, understanding that I’m a kidder. Some other cashiers at Kroger don’t.
“Have you removed items from the bottom of your cart?” an older cashier asked me one Saturday afternoon.
“No,” I said. “I’m trying to save money by walking out with those items. I brought extra plastic bags with me and I’ll bag the stolen stuff outside.”
Stoned faced, she came around to see if my cart was totally empty. Apparently, she didn’t think I was funny.
I think some people can’t find their sense of humor while working. It could be they hate their jobs so much, they can’t find anything to laugh about. I’m not sure, but maybe that’s the case with a cashier at the Cork ’N Bottle in Covington.
She’s a young girl, and I have no idea why she’s so uptight. She’s not unfriendly, but I have never seen her smile and can never get her to loosen up.
On one Friday afternoon while purchasing a bottle of vodka, my 55-year-old self said to her, “I suppose you want to see my ID.”
She looked at me bewildered.
“Why?” she said. “You obviously are old enough.”
I went back in the following Friday to buy another bottle. As she started to put it in the paper bag, I said, “I don’t need the bag. I’ll just drink it here.”
Giving me an icy stare, she said, “You can’t drink it here. Please take it outside.”
Something tells me she doesn’t appreciate my tomfoolery, or maybe she just thinks I’m a cornball. I’m certainly not above that either.
On most Fridays after making that stop at the Cork ’N Bottle, a friend and I usually stop in at Cosmo’s to have a few drinks.
Being deadpan, the running joke is that I’m a preacher with a church in Covington. I’m coming in to get all liquored up before giving a sermon. I’m forever asking the staff if they’ve “been saved.”
Absurd? Ridiculous? Of course. It’s tomfoolery.
It didn’t take the bartending staff long to figure out I was full of it. Now, when my friend and I come in, “Praise Jesus” is our normal welcome.
I’m sure Jan and Jim were grateful I didn’t go into my preacher routine at Applebee’s. They’ve known me for so many years; it’s no surprise to them when I turn to tomfoolery.
When our waitress came to our table and asked how everything was, I said, “Do you really care if we liked it or not?”
When she brought us the check, I said, “We don’t have any money. Is that going to be a problem here?”
Whether she thought I was being funny or just plain stupid, I don’t know, but at least she laughed and was being a good sport about it.
And that’s all I ask. I’m much too old to say goodbye to tomfoolery or silliness, and I’ll probably go to my grave being sarcastic. Those around me will just have to put up with it.
Now, you all have a nice day.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org