Columns

2007.02.14 Valentine's Day just isn't as romantic as it once was

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

I probably should remind you that today is Valentine’s Day, in case you’re involved in one of those relationships that demands recognition of the occasion. For some couples, this is their favorite day of the year.

And then there are those Valentine’s Days that are best left forgotten, if only it were possible. Mine was in 1996.

The young woman I was engaged to at the time had the day before Valentine’s Day off and decided to accompany me on a late afternoon errand to the Tecumseh Herald. They were closing up for the day when we arrived, so I quickly took care of business. We then decided to ask for suggestions on where to eat since she was working the next evening and it was now or never as far as celebrating the occasion went.

My Herald friends suggested a dining location in town and we were off on what turned out to be our big adventure. The waitress mistook us for regulars as she came right over and asked if we were ready to order. We told her we had never been there before so we would have to see menus, which she quickly retrieved.

The service was great, as they seemed to want to impress the new customers, and everything went fine until about halfway through the meal.

The people who were sitting at the table behind me left, then a few minutes later the woman from the group returned and soon all hell broke loose. She demanded to see whoever had cleaned their table, claiming she had left her purse behind and now it was gone, supposedly with several hundred dollars inside.

The waitress who had cleaned up the table came out and said she hadn’t seen a purse, a statement that “Mrs. Lost Purse” very loudly pronounced as a lie. She then demanded to talk to the owner, getting even more hostile when told the owner had left for the day. She informed the staff that they had better get the owner down there as she was going to call the police. She then stomped out the front door.

When she returned, she was even madder, as she was holding what she claimed was her purse, now empty, which she had supposedly been found in the trash can outside the front door. Then, the police arrived, adding an even more romantic aura to this Valentine’s Day dinner.  We had all been transformed from customers into suspects.

I must say, I’d never had to interrupt a meal to give a statement to a police officer before this. My fiancée was even less thrilled, having sat on the side of the table facing the “victim,” so she wasn’t able to simply tell the officer she had her back to the situation, as I was able to do.

About this time, it dawned on our waitress that this was all happening on our first visit to the restaurant. She came over to the table asking us to please come back and not to hold this experience against them. A few minutes later, the manager came over, saying the same thing.

During this whole scene, no customer had left the restaurant, probably feeling this might look suspicious. I was ready to leave, though, so against the advice of my fiancée, I went over and asked the police officer if we were free to go.

He said we could as he already had our statements and contact information, and no one, not even Mrs. Lost Purse, was accusing us of anything. This kind of opened the floodgates, as two other couples asked the officer for permission to leave after hearing me get our release.

I went up to the cash register to pay our bill and the cashier added her pleas for us to come back to those of the others. I told her we would, but I remember thinking to myself, “Only if we move to Tecumseh and you’re the last restaurant in town.”

That didn’t happen, of course, and I haven’t to this day been back to that restaurant. I find drive-throughs a better choice to avoid customers like Mrs. Lost Purse, who I still think was trying to scam the restaurant.

Nothing more permanent came of the relationship, either. After all, what can you do to top the Valentine’s Day from Hell?

I don’t mean this little story to scare anyone away from celebrating Valentine’s Day. I’m just suggesting it might be safer to observe it at home. And by yourself.

    – Feb. 14, 2007 

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