Sunday, September 14, 2008

Married without reservations

“When’s the last time we went out to dinner?” my wife Kara asked last week.

“Two days ago,” I said.

“When’s the last time we went out to a place that didn’t have extra value combos?” she asked.

I was stumped. Technically, Wendy’s doesn’t call them “extra value combos,” but somehow I sensed that bringing that up wouldn’t get to the root of her question.

The last time we’d been out to a non-paper-napkin dinner had been about a month prior, on our fourth anniversary. Depending on which source you believe, the fourth anniversary is either the fruit, flowers, linen, silk or appliances anniversary. The “appliances anniversary” suggestion must have been a joke, because anybody who would choose to get their spouse an appliance on their anniversary clearly would never have made it to see the fourth one.

When I reminded Kara about that dinner, she parried my thrust, saying that while that dinner was nice, everyone goes out for their anniversary, so it wasn’t the same as going out spontaneously. Apparently, anniversary dinners are like preseason games: they don’t count towards your record, but you get in trouble if you try to skip them.

“I hope you’re not saying that we’re not as romantic as we used to be. There’s plenty of romance going on around here,” I said as I continued romantically scrubbing the dog vomit off the arm of the couch.

Later that night, I decided that maybe she was right: what’s the point of having money if you’re just going to tuck it into a well-diversified portfolio with long-term growth prospects when you could be blowing it on frivolous meals that will be forgotten as soon as the chewable Rolaids start working?

I marched over to our phone and made a reservation for that coming Friday night at an Italian restaurant that we’d been meaning to try for the better part of a decade and for which we’d just never found the right occasion. Incidentally, if you’ve never dialed 1-800-GOOG-411 to find a phone listing for a business, your life is about to dramatically improve. It’s a free service from Google that further relegates phone books to the world of impromptu booster seats. Full disclosure: in return for my endorsement, Google allows me use of its web searching software free of charge.

As Kara and I sat at the table with a small tea candle between us, I asked her what I was going to order. She always knows what I’m going to order. While I’d once been impressed, I was beginning to think that her uncanny ability was closely correlated with my stunning predictability. But this time, she couldn’t possibly have known that I’d been eyeing up the rigatoni.

“The rigatoni,” she said.

“But it has ham in it!” I replied. I’d been reluctant to order anything with ham in it ever since we’d watched a Discovery Channel special on pigs. The pigs in the show were able to master a simple video game, using their snouts to maneuver a large red joystick, the kind you’d see on an old Pac-Man machine. When the pig moved a ball on the screen to the correct position, it would receive a treat. A Jack Russell terrier couldn’t master the game after years of training, but the pig just picked it up intuitively.

I watched the show feeling a growing sense of guilt. Something about eating a fellow video gamer just seemed so wrong. The pig was better at video games than many human players, and it had a better complexion, too.

But Kara knew that my empathy for my compatriots would only go so far when they were mixed with pasta and béchamel sauce and topped with Gorgonzola cheese.

You can discuss your reservations about Mike Todd at


  1. oh man, i have a serious weakness for pasta and thick cheesy sauce. My husband always says he is so thankful i like "non-sophisticated food"!!

  2. Grafx -- Thanks for stopping by! Around here, when we wanna get fancy, we dip our onion rings in the zesty sauce.

  3. "I watched the show feeling a growing sense of guilt. Something about eating a fellow video gamer just seemed so wrong. The pig was better at video games than many human players, and it had a better complexion, too."

    I love this paragraph! Another great column.

  4. Eye -- Hey, man. Good to hear from you again. And thanks!

  5. I stumbled upon your blog through I-don't-know-whose blog. Now I am happy I did. I love your style of writing and the way you end your blogs...
    "You can discuss your reservations about Mike Todd at" etc etc
    Great job !

  6. I definitely remember seeing the pig playing video games but I can't remember if I was with you when I saw it. Hmm...could have been me just looking at a mirror during a session of COD4, though.

  7. Anonymous -- Thanks! Usually, anonymous people are anonymous so they can call me a douchebag. That was a nice change.

    Anvil -- Ha - good one, dude. Yeah, that was on when you were over, shortly after a 15-hour Call of Duty marathon, I believe. We could have used the pig's help getting through that one.

  8. Mike, next time Kara complains about too much cheap fast food, take her out for one of these

  9. Allover -- Ha! Dang, you're quite the trendspotter. I bet it won't be long before McDonald's has a 5,000 Dollar Menu.

  10. Hey! Didja know that pigs are said to be the smartest mammals on earth? infact its a widely debated subject that pigs may be infact smarter than chimpanzees! In da water world ofcourse it's popoises.

    Well! just trivia :)