The King’s Scotch

“He played ‘Mr. Darcy’ in Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility,” my normally unflappable manager offered.

“I saw the movie so long ago,” I whined.”Can you name anything else that he was in?”

My boss harrumphed, shrugged, and turned away. He and my fellow servers had been buzzing like yellowjackets caught between two clear window panes all evening, hypothesizing as to why the Colin Firth was in Chicago at all. The most rational choice was that he was viewing the latest offering at a neighboring theater to decide whether to sign to appear in their follow-up production, Tom Stoppard’s Rock and Roll. His late-night dinner reservation theorized their assumptions.

Squinting at the back of my boss’s blue suit as he brushed past en route to help a perplexed diner discern the difference between skirt steak and filet, I wondered what was causing my memory lapse. I’d always been the smarmy bloke who could boast of being able to name a film after the mere mention of its co-stars. Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman? While You Were Sleeping. Meryl Streep and Martin Mull? Death Becomes Her. Stockard Channing and Will Smith? Six Degrees of Separation. Some temporarily misplaced memory bead was surely to blame for my inability to complete a chain of thought.

The performance ended soon, and Mr. Firth walked through a set of double doors into the restaurant with a younger guest in tow. After taking a seat on the left banquette of a red leather booth, the venerable performer, wearing a brown sweater and cream-colored turtleneck, splayed his menu open. I approached, fully cognizant of his identity now, but still clueless as to his body of work.

“Good evening, gentleman. Is there any sort of beverage you’d prefer with your dinner?” I offered.

The thespian kindly requested a Lagavulin 12-year scotch, bludgeoning my one Achilles’ heel insofar as service’s concern. Being a Certified Sommelier, I can rattle the selection of white and red wines off the way a tenured teacher lazily recites a recycled lesson. The scotch list, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal.

I grasped for whatever straw I could to save face.

“We may be ‘sold out’ of the Lagavulin, Mr. Firth. Do you have a backup choice?”

He must have had the same dilemma I had of being unable to complete a chain of thought, because a second later, the Man Who Would Be King—stammered.

Rapidly assessing the situation, a sudden burst of generosity overtook me. If the preferred spirit were unavailable, what would he like? If the preferred spirit were unavailable, what could I offer as a sorry substitute? If the preferred spirit were unavailable, how would Mr. Firth view this experience?

So, I spoke from my gut.

“No worries. I’ll go to the store and get it for you, if it’s not available, “I said.

He quickly declined my offer to grocery shop for him, and received his Lagavulin 12-year in the end, as it was in stock.

My sense of recall remained MIA for the entire evening, though.  In fact, it wasn’t until a lazy evening at home a month later that I realized how I knew him best. Ironically, he is as an ensemble member in Love Actually, my favorite holiday film, which I’ve viewed countless times since its 2003 release.



9 responses to this post.

  1. well done my friend. I love Colin Firth and love his very “human” quality in this little tale. I appreciate a very welcome distraction and a bit of daydreaming this busy Friday.


  2. The essence of service at its best! Not to mention, the talented Mr. Firth.


  3. Lovely. Love, Actually is an actual favorite of mine as well


  4. Posted by Mary K on March 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Oh sweetie, Colin Firth was Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and blew away all other Mr Darcys, past and present. Sense and Sensibility had the shy, stumbling Edward Ferrars played by Hugh Grant.


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