The best thing to come out of my 28-day stint in St. Helena, other than, you know, my affinity for Shirley Temples, is my friendship with Ansel.
On the fly, we decided to spend Sunday driving around Napa is his perfect, gay, Beamer convertible and stopped for a long, hilarious lunch at the Rutherford Grill.
I love the Rutherford Grill almost as much as I love Ansel. As we snagged an outdoor table right away and watched the crowds, I wondered if we shouldn't swing up to the hospital and give them a little "You're the Before and we're the After!"
Ansel said, "Please, Beth. You know there are some people on day passes here right now."
I was reminded of awkward, iced-tea lunches with my folks on my day passes and ugh, I'm glad that's over.
At lunch, a table next to us had a crying baby, something neither Ansel nor I tolerate with any kind of patience and understanding. We make no effort to hide our disgust. I was having an $18 salad. 5 of those dollars are spent on ambiance alone. Either hand me the money or remove your child.
"God." I sighed. "I hate that. It's go gorgeous and perfect out here, and this salad is like, the best salad I've ever had and that fucking kid won't shut up."
Ansel looked over my shoulder, at the family with the baby. "It's that whole I-need-to-bring-my-kid-everywhere-I-go thing. You don't need to bring your 5 month old everywhere. That's part of the deal. You want a kid? Fine. Then you can't go everywhere with them until they're like, 12."
Finally. A voice of reason in a sea of entitlement.
At another table, we heard someone break a wine glass.
"Oh no." I spun around, looking to catch the action. "Ansel, have you ever worked in food service?"
He slowly put down his fork and looked at me. "I never told you my story?"
I got comfortable in my seat, sat back with my Diet Coke and smiled, "No!"
When Ansel was 19 and still living at home in a red state, he got a job at a restaurant called "The Patio." A self-taught server, Ansel had watched hundreds before him pour water from a pitcher, tilting it sideways."
"You know how they tilt it sideways?"
"Of course I know how they tilt it sideways."
Apparently, it's much more complicated than it looks. Ansel was serving a party of 10 and approached his table to pour everyone water. As his more experienced colleages did, Ansel tilted the pitcher sideways and lo and behold, the entire thing ended up in the lap of the group's patriarch.
"What did you do?" I asked, delighted.
"I went on break. And I never came back."
Ansel, it turns out, apologized to the table, walked out to the sidewalk to compose himself and just split.
"They mailed me my last paycheck two weeks later."
"But what about those people? The table of 10. They just sat there? You didn't tell anyone else?"
"No. I just walked out."
"Well I felt bad about it."
Spending a day with Ansel is kind of like hanging out with an ex. We know each other differently than just friends, so it's easy to cut through any formalities and instantly relax. I'm so glad (and in the interest of 12-stepping it, grateful) that I found myself in rehab at the exact same time the guy that 'dumped a pitcher of water on a table of 10 and then just walked out' found himself in rehab. Because while I'm still trying to figure out that whole Higher Power thing, someone somewhere was obviously like, "Oh, there's no way she can do this without, hmmm, let's see. Oh! This snarky gay, right here..."