Spilt Coffee

You were the elegant sixtysomething Latina at the Cuban restaurant a few weekends ago. I was the guy sitting at another table just behind you. You were just finishing your dessert and about to join the rest of your four-person table for a nice cup of coffee. My wife and I were enjoying our third meal in eight months without our baby. I was explaining to the couple we were dining with how relaxing it was not to have to hold a small child in your arms while attempting to eat food in a crowded restaurant. Explaining this involved extensive use of my hands, as I pretended to hold a baby on my left shoulder. Exactly at that moment, the waitress squeezed into the small space between our tables, arriving with several cappuccinos for your table. Usually I don’t talk with my hands, but as I just explained, sign language was integral to my tale of parental dining woes. Smack went my left hand into the right arm of the waitress. Splash went the cappuccinos—all over your head and shoulders. You screamed: at first from the shock and discomfort, then in anger at the waitress. But when I jumped up and took the blame for the spill, you could have slapped my face, demanded I pay for your dinner or even threatened to sue me. You did none of these things. Instead, you retreated to the bathroom, emerging some 10 minutes later to join the rest of your table outside the restaurant. I know I ruined your dinner—and mine as well, for that matter. But I learned the lesson of a lifetime: a true gentleman talks with his mouth, not his hands.

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