SCREW TOPS

“Why not? All your beers have┬áthem!” she said.

***

As the time comes to pay the bill. This lady has not forgotten her question, and she asks with a smile, “What would have been better, beside the price, if we would have bought your wine which does not even have screw tops?”
SCREW TOPS!
I meet this fine lady, the comptroller for an electronics company late in June. She makes a reservation for a reception. Her company has booked meeting space and rooms for a three-day convention in early November.

She selects Triples, for a casual reception, after falling in love with the garden setting and the nostalgic look of the restaurant. Her plan is to offer hors d’ oeuvres, white wine by the glass and domestic beers. During our talk she asks me about the weather during the first week in November. I assure her that the rains never start until the later part of November.
From experience I tell her, “December, January and February are the months of our rainy season here in Monterey.”
She listens but insists on having both, the indoors and outdoors, reserved. I think she is trying to be difficult. Her caution is not needed. She studies the wine list and asks. “May I bring my own wine? I have some wine which I always drink at home.”

We do such on occasions and I tell her about the corkage fee. The months go by and I do not think of the lady from the electronics company until the day of the party itself. I am shocked when I see the wine for the party being delivered. It is the cheapest jug wine available. At least it’s in liter and gallon botteles, I tell myself, I should be glad it is not in cardboard boxes or plastic bags.

The snob within does not allow me to think much of any wine which isn’t bottled and capped with a proper cork. As a waiter in fine dining I look down at those screw tops.

The lady I had talked to, months’ ago, arrives ahead of her party and is wondering about the weather reports as there are some dark clouds. I tell her, “Do not to worry! That’s high fog.” The temperature is around sixty degrees, the usual temperature for Monterey. The garden is set up with table cloths and cushions, candles and bar napkins. She asks me how I like her wine selection. I do not want to be rude so I say, “I seldom see bottles with screw tops used around here.”

Arrogant as I am I recall that I have never before opened a screw top wine bottle yet at any restaurant I have worked all these years. I am disgusted with her selection, I don’t say it but she reads my face. She laughs at me and her eyes tell me that she thinks I’m silly. I see her grabbing one of the Budweiser bottles laying on ice, ready for her guests, and twisting the top off. I hurry and get her a glass. “So now tell me what’s wrong with screw tops, all your beers have em?” She asks.
Before I can answer, it starts to rain. Not just a sprinkle like the mist from heavy fog, but it is pouring. That’s heavy stuff. Sheets of rain make it impossible to see more than twenty yards. Huge drops splatter on the brick patio. It should not have rained. The weather report was for coastal fog in our area. An arctic front was supposed to bring some rain to the northern part of California above San Francisco but not down here in Monterey.

I hear her “You did say it will not rain!” ringing in my ears while I try to save as many of the already soaking wet garden chair cushions, during the short break in the weather. Naturally I get soaking wet. The temperature is falling fast. The rain has stopped. The clouds are dark and loaded. The guests’ arrival gets delayed by ten minutes of Seagull-egg-size hail drumming on the pavement.

It’s cold, a snowlike layer is covering the unprotected outdoor tables. The party arrives, carefully avaoiding the slippery spots on the ground. Luckily we have inside space reserved for them. The use of the garden is now out of the question. The outdoor temperature has dropped to a chilly forty-two degrees. A cold gusty wind has started to blow from the north. Not enough problems yet, we loose the electricity.

However the group of electronics sales people has a fun time mingling by candle light. Nobody seems to care or notice what wine we pour as long as there are always fresh full glasses circulating. The horse d’oeuvres are served butler style too. It has turned into an intimate casual gathering, just the way she the host wanted it to be.

By the end of the night, as the power comes on, she, the host, asks me to dim the lights, way down. The event is a winner. The reception which was planned to go from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. drags out until past ten. Nobody is in a hurry to leave.

As the time comes for the host to pay the bill. She has not forgotten her question, and asks me “What would have been better, beside the price, if we would have bought your wine which does not even have screw tops?” I did earlier apologize for being wrong with my weather report, but now I have to admit too that I was wrong with my prejudice against wine bottles without corks.

It wouldn’t have made one bit of difference to her group of people if we would have served fine wines in crystal goblets. She says “Good night” with a big hug. She thanks me, for even if we would have planned it, we couldn’t have done it better. Her party was a success.

by helmut schonwalder