… the young lad is on his knees, ┬áproposing marriage to his woman…


She knows she is going to say “Yes” for that’s the moment for which she had been waiting. Unable to talk – yet her brain tells her all the pitfalls she has heard…

The people business is full of surprises. Pleasant unforgettable moments are created all the time. That’s what hospitality industry is all about, the being right there where it all happens. As a waiter I have to know when to back off and when to be aggressive. I have to know when to upsell a guest. I better know, when and how to give a long wine-list explanation without talking down while educating my guest. And I should know when actions from my side are not needed or when my presence at the table is non appropriate at all.
Like this young couple, who arrive somewhat out of breath. He says he made a reservation. I look. The hostess looks. We find it in the reservation book, but for the next evening. He is nervous and embarrassed. Our hostess tactfully apologizes, as this could as well be our mistake. With an “Allow me two minutes to reset a table which just became available and I can probably seat you.” She assures the young people that everything is okay and there is no reason to panic, yet.
While being seated he orders “A bottle of champagne please!” I need more specific instructions and show him the pages of our wine list where sparkling wines and Champagnes are listed. His fingers point from one page to the other, to the beginning where prices start at $19.95 per bottle to the end, where Cristal is listed at $175. His index finger circles over the prices and at $49 he stops with an “I take this one and two glasses!”
I get the selected Chandon White Star Champagne for him and open it at the table. I see that the young man’s hands are shaking as he unwraps a three-foot long clear plastic box. In it is a long-stem dark blue rose which to me looks like a prime example of the Konrad Adenauer rose-cross-breed. I am not sure but this rose looks expensive and unusual. I pour a little taste into his glass. The young man ignores me. He is busy listening to his lady-friend, who is thanking him for the beautiful rose. I watch him taking a little jewelry box out of his jacket’s pocket. I don’t wait any longer for him to taste the Champagne. I pour her a glass and him one too. They toast at each other. I wait at their table, wait for their dinner decision, standing in waiting to help with the menu. They have not looked at the menu yet. She says to him “I’m hungry!” He looks up at me and orders, “Two salads and the house special for her and the same for me!” I haven’t told them the specials yet. So I ask “Fish special or meat special?” She decides for fish and he for meat. I take their order to the kitchen.
Coming back out into the dining room with two salads in my left hand, all conversation has ceased. The background music by coincidence, appropriately is playing Mozart’s Zauberfloete. At the table where the salads are supposed to go to, the young lad is on his knees proposing marriage to his woman. An older well-dressed mademoiselle at the table to my right has tears running from her eyes which certainly will ruin her make up, she doesn’t notice. I feel the aura of approval in the room to the young man’s actions. Tension is building up while he asks her “. . . will you marry me?” and she doesn’t answer. She is crying. Her tears are dropping on the better than one carat solitaire which she is holding with both hands. She looks overwhelmed by the glitter, value and implication of the precious stone set in yellow gold. “I want you to marry me!” His plea does not get through to her yet. She is speechless, unwilling or unable to answer. He repeats his “. . . please marry me!” Somewhere I hear a woman’s voice “Say yes! You can’t turn him down now!”
The young woman is wiping her eyes with the napkin. She looks at him, at her engagement ring, and at him looking up at her. She is overwhelmed. She knows she is going to say “Yes” for that’s the moment for which she had been waiting. Unable to talk – yet her brain tells her all the pitfalls she has heard about marriages – she is fully aware of her being paralyzed by joy and fear. There is great joy for the moment and the value of the ring, bought on an installment plan. Regardless she fears the price tag attached. Both will have to pay all their life for the commitment she is about to make. Hundred thousand dollars for each child to raise, fifty thousand alone for college and she wants two kids a boy and a girl, at least, maybe three but not more than four. She depresses all feeling of fainting. With another quick glance at the twinkling priceless stone, with wet but shiny eyes and a victorious smile on her face, she slips the diamond-ring onto her finger. Gathering all her strength her arms open and grab him. She helps him off the floor, and holds him tight. Between kisses she mutters her “Yes! …Yes! …Yes! I marry you!”
Forgotten are the public and the surrounding. They stand there, next to their table, kissing each other and the salad plates in my left hand are getting heavier and heavier.
These two, who just promised in front of all people present to become one, they are on their very own island of happiness in shark infested waters, ready to weather stormy seas, droughts and floods. The people around them applaud and as they both take a seat at their table, I am able to slide the salads in front of them. Without a word I pour some more Champagne and go on to my other tables. Passing by the couple’s table I watch the young man who earlier was so nervous, giving the thumbs up sign to his audience before toasting to his bride and everyone in the room. His future wife has glowing cheeks and the light reflects equally strong of her sparkling eyes and her brand new engagement ring. To the young couple it doesn’t matter what food I put discretely in front of them, they are in seventh heaven. After dinner I bring them a dessert to share, an order of baked Alaska with compliments of the house.
As the time goes by, the two visit me at least once a year. Five years later, they have left their three young children with his parents and she asks me to bring them whatever they had on their engagement night. Neither of them remembers what they had to eat way back then. However, she does recall that the dessert was served flaming. I do the best I can and they are happy. They laugh and joke about their first dinner together at our restaurant. She remembers it as the first and last time that he had begged her on his knees for anything. He recalls how worried he was when she didn’t answer him at first. And he says “I thought I get a ‘No’ and I was ready to get up and storm out of the place!”
When I serve them the baked Alaska, she remembers it as the same type of dessert they had five years ago.

by helmut schonwalder