“What time is it?” my lovely wife asked.
“Ten to ten.”
“Are you going for him or am I?”
Am I not a gentleman? Does chivalry not seep from my very pores? Yes, damn it, occasionally it does. So I was going for Ben.
Besides, we’d just watched Billy Elliott. I was in sentimental father/son mode.
“I’ll go; you’ve had a tough week.”
But when to go? That was the $64,000 dollar question. Or in my case, the 64 minute question…
“I’m off,” I said, kissing my wife. “He’ll phone just as I’m parking. Perfect timing.”
“You say that every week.”
She’s right. I do. But no, he doesn’t phone while I’m driving to the hotel. No problem: I’ve got pole position outside. I can see straight into the dining room. The empty dining room. Ben will be out in a minute, and very shortly afterwards I’ll be in the warm and welcoming arms of my wife…
Yep, there’s the waitress he works with. Claire? Coming out, phoning her Dad, walking up the street to meet him. Not even worth turning the car engine off…
Hang on, who’s that in the dining room? My son. Damn it. What’s he doing? Moving a table. Laying the table – for breakfast. Sigh. Could be another ten minutes. Engine off. Start shivering.
Not long, I text to my wife. Dining room is empty. Don’t fall asleep.
Think he’s just finishing off, I text five minutes later. Definitely not long.
The hotel door opens. Brilliant. I turn the engine on. Then I turn it off. An elderly couple come out. She’s carrying a plate of sandwiches. What? Wasn’t a three course meal enough for you?
Someone comes back into the dining room. Ben. Again. He stares at a table.
Ben is in the dining room, I text. He’s staring at a table.
Really, darling? That is interesting. Do I detect a hint of late night marital sarcasm?
More old people come out. Without sandwiches – but with party hats.
A lot of old people are coming out.
You do realise I could be asleep don’t you? No, it’s not sarcasm. Just a pressing need to go to sleep. Well I’m very sorry, wife. If I’m going to suffer you’re going to suffer…
Suddenly one of the old men – yes, with party hat – taps on the car window. I reluctantly wind it down.
“Are you the taxi we ordered?”
“No,” I reply through gritted teeth. “I’m the taxi my son orders. Every Friday night.”
More old people leave the hotel. Then the chef. But not a 17 year old waiter.
Then … nothing.
This is like ‘Waiting for Godot…’
Godot never turned up.
Precisely… Do you want me to keep you updated?
Only if you want to sleep in the spare room.
‘Time passes,’ as the old ZX Spectrum games used to so irritatingly say. Rather a lot of time passed. Ben was still in the dining room. Blimey, being a cop on stakeout duty must be dull.
Unless… Who was this? That was Tom’s mate’s mum wasn’t it? Coming out of a hotel late on a Friday night. Gossip alert! Gossip alert! Who was that following her? A man!
Damn it: her husband. The old lady with the sandwiches had been more interesting.
Foolishly I glanced at the time. Not much longer and I could go in for breakfast…
I carried on waiting. And waiting…
“Sorry, Dad,” he finally said. “There was a party. British Legion. Claire and I tossed for it. I lost. Still,” he said cheerfully, “It’s another hour’s pay.”
I explained how much it cost to keep a taxi waiting…