Spies and Thieves

Last Saturday, Missy and I had a date night.

Per usual, we waited until the last minute to decide what we were going to do. Finally, Missy said she didn’t want anything to do with the planning, she just wanted me to figure it out for us.

So I made a plan. I was kind of in the doghouse, so I tried to plan the evening to be exactly how Missy would want it. One of her favorite restaurants is Benvenuti’s in Norman. It’s a great Italian place on Main Street. I figured we’d eat there and then go to a late movie, another of Missy’s favorite activities.

So I called Benvenuti’s to get a reservation.

The lady put me on hold for a minute, then came back and said they only had two time slots available — 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. I looked at the clock. It was 4:58 p.m. So, um, I guess we’ll take the 8. I was hoping for a little earlier than that but our movie didn’t start until 10 p.m. so I figured we still had plenty of time. (Kids, that right there is what you call “foreshadowing.” We would not, in fact, have plenty of time).

Since we had a little time to kill before our dinner, we decided to go to The Winston, a trendy little bar directly across the street from Benvenuti’s. It was a perfect night outside, so we sat out front.

A short while later I received this picture.

Evidently, my friend Brant had also elected to have a date night at Benvenuti’s. But instead of walking across the street and saying hi like a normal human being he took a picture of us and put it in a group text. Somehow it looks like I’m staring right at him even though I have no idea he is there and can’t see anything. Funny thing is, he ended up having a 5 p.m. reservation, so we would have seen them if we had chosen that time slot and then made it from Oklahoma City to Norman in two minutes.

Side note: Congrats to Brant and Abby on the beautiful baby girl they had just a few days ago!

Since we were directly across the street, it was quite easy for us to be at Benvenuti’s on time for our 8 p.m. reservation. I think we got there five minutes early. We checked in and stood right next to the podium while we waited for our table, which they said would be ready soon.

A few minutes later, possibly right at 8 p.m., another couple walks in and says they have an 8 p.m. reservation. Then they ask to speak to the manager.

Immediately, Missy turns to me and says, “I don’t know what’s happening but I feel like we are about to get screwed.” (Kids, that right there is what you call “foreshadowing”. We did, in fact, get screwed.)

We were paying close attention when when the manager comes up to them. They point toward the bar area and say they’d like a table in there, because they are Oklahoma State University fans and OSU is playing Texas and they want to watch the game while they eat. We definitely did not hear every word of the conversation but that was the gist of it.

Fifteen minutes go by. Nobody has gotten a table. Now I’m getting a little bit worried about our movie plans. Then one of the hostesses (not the manager) goes up to them, and they are whisked off to a table right in front of us, in the bar area close to the TV.

Immediately I look over at the podium, where two hostesses are talking about the situation. Before I can open my mouth, one of the hostesses — the one who checked us in — says, “You’re Mr. Franklin, right?” I say yes. The other hostess says, “I asked them if they were Mr. and Mrs. Franklin and they said yes so I took them to their table.”

Then the first hostess says, “You should have gotten the first table. You both had 8 p.m. reservations but you checked in first. Let me talk to the manager.”

The manager comes over and says, “I’m sorry about that. Let me get you a glass of wine on the house.”

I tell her that normally we wouldn’t care but we are trying to make this movie. She says there should be another table available soon, and in the meantime we can drink for free.

I opt for a beer instead of the wine, and unfortunately another table does not come open soon. Nobody is leaving this restaurant. By the time I finish the beer, I have sat in the lobby long enough to be considered a camper, but I’m definitely not a happy one. The manager brings me another beer and says they will rush our food so we can make the movie. That’s a nice gesture but this isn’t the kind of restaurant you want to be rushing in and out of. It’s a great place with a great atmosphere and great food. They are certainly factoring the experience into their pricing, so I’m not pleased with having to choose between rushing our time there or missing the movie.

While we wait, Missy and I are debating how complicit this couple is in the whole affair. It was pretty annoying having to stand eight feet away from them while they got their food and watched the game. Did the hostess ask them if they were the Franklins, and they knowingly lied because they could see where the table was and it was where they wanted it? Did the manager instruct the hostess to give them the next available table when they talked to her?

We saw the whole thing go down. It was somewhat noisy in there, and Missy thought they never heard the hostess ask if they were the Franklins. She thinks there’s a good chance they never were asked if they were the Franklins, that the staff made that whole part up after they could tell I was unhappy. She thinks the manager figured it would be no big deal and gave them that table ahead of us since it was in their desired location.

Normally I would agree with that, and it’s certainly possible. But after the couple was seated and I went over to the podium, the two hostesses were already in the middle of a discussion about the whole thing. And the manager was not directly involved in any of the seating process, nor was she even up front during the time in question. To me, the hostesses seemed to be genuinely sorry that they seated the wrong couple, and I don’t think they are good enough actors to pull off that scene deliberately.

So, then, the real question is whether the other couple knew they were stealing our table. We didn’t get our table until a few minutes before 9 p.m. So the restaurant screwed that up pretty bad either way. Had we gotten the first table, the other couple would have had to wait an hour past their 8 p.m. reservation.

Apparently Benvenuti’s is about as good at holding reservations as this fictional car rental company from “Seinfeld.”

Ironically, the table that came open almost an hour late was directly next to this other couple. I was determined to use my poker skills to determine whether they knew they stole our table.

I stared them down. The dude pretended he didn’t see me, that he was too locked into the football game on the screen. That’s some BS. Men know when another man is staring them down. He’s just a coward.

The chick wore it all over her face. She was staring at me before I could stare at her, and she was trying to figure out if we knew that she knew that they had stolen our table. She might as well have admitted it out loud.

It seems fair to point out two mitigating factors, although these don’t in any way change the fact that these Gatsbys 100% knowingly stole our table. One, I was one old fashioned and two beers deep by this point. Second, it’s entirely feasible that this couple could have knowingly stolen someone’s table without knowing it was ours, since we had checked in before them and we didn’t cause a scene at the front when they got our table. We had no interaction with them whatsoever. So maybe the chick was just getting freaked out by a stranger giving her husband the stink eye, but probably she was having a hard time enjoying herself because she knew she was eating fruit from the poisonous tree, having sold her soul for a seat at the table where she could watch OSU lose to Texas.

We decided to just order pizzas, which could be made pretty quickly. They did indeed come quickly and were great. This kept the tab much lower than usual and also allowed us to make the movie on time (technically we were a few minutes late but we got there during the previews). I have to say, the pizza was delicious. Everything I’ve ever eaten there has been good.

The movie sucked. The plot to the dinner mystery was more entertaining.

Got some yummy leftovers from my prosciutto pizza at Benvenuto’s. Bet they tasted better than that loss to Texas, you thieving jerks.

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