After the waitress seats us, the professorâ€™s wife leans in and asks if weâ€™ve ever eaten at the restaurant before. When we say no, she squeals, â€œOh, youâ€™re going to love itâ€ and recommends a drink on the menu: hot ginger lemon apple cider. You can also add bourbon to it and itâ€™s delicious, she says.
My daughter â€“ Little M â€“ and I hadnâ€™t planned on having dinner with her professor and his wife. But the quaint, tiny neighborhood restaurant near Ocean Beach in San Francisco was packed tonight. We were next in line for a table when the professor, sporting a fedora and full gray beard, and his wife, petite and full of positive energy, walked in through the front door and smacked into a wall of people on the waiting list. So we offered to have them join us for dinner.
I know my daughter was nervous. Our plans for a laid-back dinner suddenly became a high-stress situation, where she felt compelled to impress. I was fine with it. The prof taught Asian American studies, a subject I care about and was well-versed in. Thank goodness, he didnâ€™t teach physics or math.
â€œIâ€™ll have the hot ginger lemon apple cider,â€ Little M says. â€œBut no alcohol, please.â€
I waited for the others to order.
â€œIâ€™ll have the same,â€ the professor says. â€œBut Iâ€™m going to have the bourbon because Iâ€™m grading papers tonight.â€
And without missing a beat, he looks at my daughter, smiles and adds: â€œExpect your paper back tomorrow.â€
It was funny. I laughed out loud. I didnâ€™t look at Little Mâ€™s reaction (she was sitting beside me on a bench), but I didnâ€™t have to. I knew she smiled, but inside, she was dying. But for me, the joke eased any tension there was. It was good to know the old prof has a sense of humor. It told me dinner was going to be all right.
And it was. The prof and his wife were delightful, the food was delicious and the conversation was stimulating.
About two hours later, as we parted ways, and Little M and I walked back to our car, I told her I was confident that she did impress. She was on. She did great.