(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from the soon-to-be-published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant, appears in this space.)Kranston had spoken to the nice neighbor about the July 4th Cottagewood Parade and the hosting details had been established. On Monday, July 1st Rob Dick was anxiously waiting for us with open arms when we arrived at Cottagewood. He had the lease paperwork, his inventory, and all the documentation we needed to sign before he turned the keys to our newest venture over to us. Looking back, it was the fastest, smoothest most enjoyable restaurant deal we ever did. Thirty minutes and the transaction was completed. We met the staff, both of them, we spoke to the chef, and since we always closed on Mondays, we were almost on our way back to Crocus Hill when the front door opened.
Rob and I have a very similar sense of humor and outlook on life. As I was inspecting the inventory list, Kranston and Rob were discussing the lease document. Although I had only known Rob for less thank two weeks, he seemed to be a prankster. He had that twinkle in his eye and the frisk in his step which is the give away of a guy who likes to play practical jokes. Just as I was heading for the Kitchen a woman walked through the door, past the table where Krsnston and Rob were sitting, and placed a card down on the counter while proceeding to walk directly to the bathroom. Moments later, she came out of the bathroom wearing a long white smock complete with a pocket protector hosting pens and thermometers of various sizes, and colors. Her hair was indistinguishable as the hairnet hugging her head confined the strand close to her scalp. Her rubber gloves were bright blue and she sported a very firm look on her face.
"Are you the new owner" she asked.
"Yes I am, I am John Foley and that is my partner, Kranston."
"I´m Deborah Andersen, the health inspector. I am here to inspect the restaurant."
Her less than fashionable accoutrement topped off with the hairnet that was so obviously digging into her forehead transformed her from county employee to a theater character dressed in garb of another time.
She appeared before me as a cross between mad scientist and Mrs. Goodwrench aimlessly searching for her husband, Morgus. I was sure that Rob had a coaxed a friend to impersonate a health inspector sort. I had never experienced a county health inspector who dressed as though researching lab rats, before. I paid the card no mind, assuming that the congeniality that was expressed could only be from that of a jokster.
It seemed too coincidental that she appeared within fifteen minutes of us getting to the store.
As she pulled out her thermometer and placed it in the potato salad in the deli case that belonged in the culinary wing of the Smithsonian, she made a comment about how old the case actually was. We bantered for a moment before she whisked her thermometer out of the salad and sternly informed me that its temperature was too high as though I had anything in the world to do with that. Her assertiveness was as pointed as a social worker expressing displeasure at neglect for your child.This had to be a joke.
"Well, last night when I put it to bed it seemed to have had the sniffles" I said, adding, "Maybe it´s coming down with a cold."
"I don´t find that funny," She said.
"Well, if you want to inspect this place I think you ought to start in the basement. Have you ever been down there?"
The dirt floor basement of The Store was had been compacted over the years to allow for a person of miniature stature to stand tall underneath the cobweb encrusted floor. Rob had cleaned it to the best of his abilities, but the creatures that enjoy dark, damp, dirk-all miniscule crawlers-mind you, had made their home there for almost a century. Depending on where you stepped, its height varied from six feet to four feet. The entrance was a trap door, in the floor, directly in front of the rear coolers. In order to protect the opening and closing of the floor, which had to be barricaded before you could pick up the door, a four-top table was always placed on top of the four-foot cut out so nobody would fall down the stairs or worse, just fall down the ten foot drop. Rob explained this was one of his most frequent nightmares- that someone would haphazardly tumble to the throws of the basement and be locked down under for longer than we care to discuss it this point.
Moving the table and situating the chairs to keep catastrophy at bay, I opened the door and yelled down to my imaginary friend, George, to get everyone out of the pool, adding, "the Health Inspector is here".
Naturally, she didn´t find the comment amusing, but having never been in the basement her idea of what to expect was blank. When Rob heard the comment his face became a dark shade of red. Kranston thought I had lost my mind. Noticing the expressions on their faces I began to realize my mistakes.
I rapidly proceeded down the stairs. "You’re not really from the health department are you?," I apologetically asked.
"Of course I am" she said.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry. I thought Rob did this as a joke since we are just taking over the management of the store.I am really sorry. I am so glad you are here. I had some questions about getting a new cooler." I said.
"No you don´t. You´re just trying to make up for being foolish," she said.
"I am going to finish up. Everything seems to be in order except your sense of humor. I can fix that."
Moments later "Deborah Health Department" wished us luck, wrote up a sheet of suggestions and left, claiming she would see us in three months.
Rob, Kranston and I sat down at the front dining room table, reviewed and signed the papers, shook hands and sighed in unison.
Kranston´s sigh signified enthusiasm, she had yet another store. Our culinary group now numbered, two.
Rob´s breathe signified excitement. His culinary group numbered zero.
And I began to see culinary cash flow future. If we initiated systems, employed the help of our new chef, developed a way to turn perishables into profits, rather than losses, the store would bring enough to the bottom line to make us profitable. For a moment the future looked very bright.
On the way Rob offered these words. "Oh, and by the way, get rid of the chef, he´ll rob you blind."