Ultimately we all want the same thing. No matter who we are or where we come from, deep within each of us is a burning desire to live our best life. The hope that we might do so is the very thing that sustains us and drives to get up in the morning to put our pants on, one leg at a time. Granted, I’m overlooking ambi-trousered freaks that put their pants on, both legs simultaneously. Those people can’t be trusted.
But as much we may strive to live the best life we can with whatever meagre talents the Universe has seen fit to bestow upon us, what if there was an alternative? What if, instead of living your best life, you had the chance to live somebody else’s?
We went out to lunch. It was a glorious occasion. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and I’d managed to secure a midday booking. As we arrived, the waitress stepped towards us with a grin as wide as the ocean and declared ‘happy anniversary!’ She sounded so incredibly certain. It seemed rude to disagree. So despite the fact that our lunch was not adjacent to anything you could fairly describe as an ‘anniversary’, we nodded and simply said ‘thanks’.
I realize there were other options. It would be possible, for example, to take umbrage. Take it where, I couldn’t say, but definitely take umbrage somewhere. By wishing us a happy anniversary at a time wholly unrelated to our anniversary, they had clearly mistaken us for two other people. Some folk might react to a case of mistaken identity by saying something regrettable like, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ Unfortunately, if you ever find yourself in a situation where it’s necessary to ask ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ the answer is, inevitably, either ‘no’ or ‘I don’t care’. No good can come of it. Ever.
A better reaction might have been to ask who we were. Or, at any rate, who she thought we were. Instead, we accepted the misplaced warm wishes, believing we’d heard the last of it. Tragically, we were wrong.
Clearly the couple we had been mistaken for had decided to go all out. I knew we were in trouble when a plate of food arrived with the words ‘happy anniversary’ written in what I think may have been a mix of truffle oil, a balsamic reduction and unicorn tears (possibly). It must have taken them ages. The lettering was so precise and perfect, it almost seemed a shame to ruin it with a piece of char grilled asparagus. Only as I pushed the food into my mouth did I notice what I think might have been a tear in the waiter’s eye.
We had only just started the main course when I realized we were surrounded. What seemed to be every staff member in the entire restaurant had encircled our table, singing ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’ in perfect three-part harmony. Their voices rang out as other people began to cheer them on. Clearly, we were stuck in the middle of something we couldn’t control.
On the one hand, it’s nice to be showered with praise, even if it’s undeserved. On the other, it’s impossible not to reflect on the fact that there were two other restaurant patrons to whom all this acclaim and love rightly belonged. Doubtless, they felt aggrieved as they watched us bathe in the good wishes of others and wondered when someone might get around to wishing them ‘Happy Anniversary’. They’d be waiting a long time.
I started to panic. Drops of sweat appeared like rivets on my brow. Granted, the salad was a bit heavy handed on the chili, but I was suffering under the weight of my conscience and I wanted the madness stop before our ruse was uncovered. I considered trying to sneak out before dessert, except they asked if we’d pose for photos with the kitchen staff and the patrons. I got up to go to the bathroom and they released a hundred white doves in my honour. Talk about awkward.
Other guests were lining up to get a Selfie with us. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. Indeed, I lost all Selfie respect as I grinned my way through the afternoon.
Ultimately it was too much, we were stealing somebody else’s big day. Not out of malice but because we didn’t want to tell the waitress she’d made a mistake. An announcement was in order. Standing on my chair, I cleared my throat and confessed that we were imposters. The couple by the window shouted ‘yes’ in full-throated vindication and punched the sky, almost hitting a low flying dove.
Having confessed to wrongfully inhabiting somebody else’s life for a few hours, I would now have to accept my just desserts. Which, in this case, was a vanilla chocolate mousse with berry compote. There was another message, this time written in what I hoped was chocolate – ‘Get out’ it read. Normally, it’s the patron that tips the staff, but this was a tip I was more than willing to take.
I’d like to formally apologise to the couple whose anniversary we inadvertently (at least tot begin with) stole. If there’s anything we can do make it up to you both, please don’t hesitate to ask. If you’d like a full fork-by-fork description of the meal or would like one of the doves back so you can raise it as your own, you need only ask. Think of it as our gift to you. Happy anniversary.