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Corky paranoia

Craig Camp

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Some things are just scary. You know – the kind of thing that wakes you up at night with the sweat rolling off of your brow.

I sit in the corner of a dark restaurant on a worn chair with dark green plastic upholstery. The walls are a dark imitation wood. The room is empty except for me and the wait staff. As I peruse the menu the only safe bet is the Filet Mignon. There was no other choice. I could drive no longer and when I pulled into the hotel it was almost 10 p.m.. There was nothing else open in this wide spot on the interstate in Iowa so it was going to be dinner here or nothing else.

I see her coming out of the corner of my eye and the paranoia starts to build in my mind.

“Would you like a cocktail,” she asked in an automatic way.

“Can I have the wine list?” I asked with a sense of resignation.

She brings the list back in a few minutes and I am relived to find Gallo Sonoma Zinfandel. Not bad, it will wash down the steak just fine.

After a while she finally arrived back at the table.

“Would you like some wine?” she asked with complete and sincere boredom.

“Yes, I will take number 124,” I said knowing better than ordering it by name.

After a few minutes she returns to tell me my selection is not available by the glass. I explain I want the whole bottle to and she reacts with disbelief and with more than a little irritation that she will actually have to open a bottle at the table.

But it is only now that the nightmare really begins. What if the wine is corked? I know what the response will be – disbelief, irritation and the certainty that I am trying to rip them off. First the bartender will come out then the hotel manager.

“Don’t you want to try something else,” they will ask assuming I just don’t like the wine.

She finally arrives at my table with the bottle some minutes after my steak has arrived. I watch with apprehension while she opens the bottle with a winged auger corkscrew. She pours about 11 ounces in my 12 ounce glass and waits for me to taste.

With trepidation I put the glass to my nose waiting for the nauseating smell of books that have been in the basement for a few decades.

But wait! There it is, the smooth fruity smell of blackberry jam. No problem after all. This will wash down my now cold steak quite well.

I tell the waitress the wine is fine. We are both visibly relieved.

“Would you like an ice bucket,” she asks.

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craig camp, that was brilliant.

there have been so many times that i'm embarrassed for the servers when it comes to wine, that i cringe when i have to taste the wine, or worse, yet, send it back because it's corked. it's painful. however, i've gotten over that feeling, and i send it back, ask for another, and if things don't work out, i simply do not pay for it.

i find this feeling comes over me quite often at asian-type places, where there might already be a language/cultural barrier. but, you gotta do what you gotta do. i make sure that i get a *new* glass with a second bottle (i always do with reds especially, for the whole table, even after tasting). otherwise you run the risk of having a glass of wine ruined by a corked bottle carelessly poured into an existing glass.

it's in your hands, and don't be shy. that's what i say at least.

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