Bob Vickrey: Dining Early-Bird Style

By Bob Vickrey
Special to the Palisades News

I’m trying to remember exactly when my friends all began having dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon. It has occurred to me that this phenomenon could possibly have something to do with their age— and yes, possibly mine.

It seems that every time someone asks me to join them for dinner lately, the invitation begins: “Why don’t you meet us at Ferdinand the Bull’s at 4:30. The early-bird special there is fantastic and it’s only $9.95.”

I’m not sure which element of the early dinner is most intriguing to senior citizens—the time or the price—or both. I want to be a good sport about these generous dinner invitations from friends, but they need to understand that we seem to be living in alternate universes. At about that time, I’ve just finished digesting my lunch.

Bob Vickrey. Photo: Bart Bartholomew
Bob Vickrey.
Photo: Bart Bartholomew

Perhaps there was an 11th Biblical commandment that I missed along the way. It probably proclaimed: Oh aged ones, let not darkness fall upon thy gray hair before thy supper has been taken, lest ye spend the rest of the night in thy bath house upon one’s urn.

I also missed the high school civics class that included the little-known Jeffersonian decree from the Declaration of Independence: When in the course of human events it becomes impossible for one people to have dinner at the same time, for the occurrence whilst surely create a logjam at the front door of Denny’s. Henceforth, for the public good, the older citizenry shall take their meals early and return to their domiciles, lest anarchy rule the colonies.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been living a rather laid-back lifestyle since my retirement several years ago. I normally don’t wake up at the crack of dawn, mainly because my obligations are fairly limited these days, as my bare calendar clearly proves.

In fact, when a friend recently asked which day would be best for lunch, I told her Tuesday and Wednesday looked good, but admitted that Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday—and maybe Sunday, could also be possibilities. It has become extremely difficult for me to play hard-to-get in recent years.

One of the problems in synching-up time schedules with friends is best illus- trated by my friend Barry, who is also retired, but nevertheless inexplicably crawls out of bed in the middle of the night. He’s up making coffee at 3:30 a.m. and is out the front door by four o’clock. Since his rising time is several hours before daybreak (at least that’s what I’ve been told), I can only assume he must be reporting to his parole officer at the downtown station. Otherwise, no one in their right mind would voluntarily be up at that hour.

Not surprisingly, everyone dining at Ferdinand’s at 4:30 had gray hair, so I fit in quite nicely there. I also noticed the waitress was speaking rather loudly when she approached our table. I assume that she has routinely been asked by this early-bird group to speak up, so she was likely trying to avoid repeating herself. I found myself yelling out my order as if she too, were hard of hearing.

The limited early-bird menu was skewed toward this golf-cart crowd. I ordered the stuffed “loaded” baked potato with the “lime jello surprise” and the real treat—a glass of plum “wine-of-the-day” that I knew was high quality because it was poured from a large box. At least we were not offered a refreshing glass of Metamucil that I had fully expected to come with the meal. Ah, the good life.

I was back home by six o’clock and found myself completely disoriented. It was normally time for my shower, a stiff martini, and making plans for dinner. I wondered if I should just go to bed like all those people I had dinner with. But then I’d probably be waking up at 3:30 and making coffee like my sleep-walking friend Barry. There was still plenty of time to go out for a late dinner, but I realized all my friends would probably be in bed by then.

If Thomas Jefferson had actually issuethat bogus decree 240 years ago, maybe I could blame him for these aggravating early-bird dinners, but who am I kidding? It’s just a matter of time before I’ll be picking up the phone and calling my friends: “I found this great little spot nearby that offers a bargain on their chicken pot pie if you order before 3:30 p.m.—and that’s not all—it comes with a generous serving of Del Monte fruit cocktail for dessert. So, who’s in?”

Bob Vickrey is a writer whose columns appear in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle, and is a regular contributor to the Boryana Books website. He lives in Pacific Palisades.

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