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I was already 30 minutes late for dinner at Turn ‘n Tender, so there was no more time for procrastination. I had to own up. Topless in the parking lot. There was a perfectly reasonable explanation, though…
It all started when my old friend and former colleague Alex got in touch. We worked together during the halcyon days of chaos-bikinis-and-japery magazine FHM, so understandably we have a lot to reminisce about.
I was looking forward to it like a ballboy on the eve of a Currie Cup semi, and cleared my diary accordingly. When the day arrived, though, I found myself with an hour or two to kill before our 7pm appointment at the popular Parktown North eatery.
An hour or two is perfect for a quick 4km run, which is my exercise of choice these days. As it happened, I fielded a call from my mom, which set me back a little, but eventually that was handled, and I was able to head out for my run.
It was a warm enough evening in my suburb, so the run was draining, the hills were more challenging than I expected and I stumbled back into my complex pretty much shattered. Like a castaway entering Lourenco Marques on foot during the 1700s, I staggered into my unit pink-faced and needing water.
The litre of water I pounded down was immediately processed into sweat by my beleaguered body and I found myself schwitzing like a poaching accused when they bring out the rhino horns.
I rapidly showered, and emerged to find myself sweating even more profusely than before. Also, I was now late for my long-anticipated dinner with the urbane Alex, one of the great dinner companions of the 21st century and someone I did not want to stand up.
I was also keen to make a good impression after all these years, so I did not want to show up haggard with perspiration. There’s an element of effortless, “as you see, I’ve done well for myself” that we like to project at times like these, and a sweat-drenched T-shirt does not do that.
The solution I came up with was to drive to the restaurant topless, so that I could sweat out the last of my run en route to the eatery. I would then don my crisp, dry and clean T-shirt and waft into Turn ‘n Tender like the svelte, conquering lion I am.
I had already sent a “running a bit late” text, so by the time I rolled into the parking lot at 7.10, I was pretty much on time. Imagine my dismay, then, when I cast about my car for my T-shirt and realised that I had left my T-shirt at home! I forgot my shirt!
I was topless, late, and now panicking like a groom during a best man’s speech.
I jumped in my car and zoomed off to Rosebank, the nearest mall, where I covered myself in a damp and inadequate gym towel and searched in vain for a clothes store that was still open. Free advice: it is not possible to purchase clothes in Rosebank after 7pm.
Drawing filthy glances from the security guards, I approached a stranger and offered to buy his T-shirt.
“No, it’s not for sale,” he blushed, backing away urgently.
Now abandoning hope, I drove back to Turn ‘n Tender to face the music. It was out of the question to enter a place like that without a shirt. I texted Alex: “You don’t perhaps have a spare shirt in your car?”
No. He did not.
It was checkmate. I made a chastened phone call from the parking lot. “I’m topless … I’m sorry … When you leave home you just assume you have clothes on…”
But then! Then Alex, like a lifesaving legend of glory and honour, a born leader of improvisation and innovation, had a word with the maitre d’…
Suffice to say, we had our dinner. We caught up. We shared tales and anecdotes from our glory days as journalists, professional streakers and directors of bikini shoots. And I did so in the shirt of a Turn ‘n Tender manager.
From half-naked opprobrium, I ascended to the very inner sanctum of Turn ‘n Tender acceptance. I had the steak and calamari. I sipped a Castle Free. I anecdoted like an anecdotal evidence leader. Fun was had, catching up was done and a new story was added to the compendium of Alex and I’s rich and fulfilling relationship. (Entirely platonic, in case you’re wondering).
I am typing this missive in that very shirt. I need to return it. I was going to just drive past and hand it back to the manager as I was leaving. But you kind of take it for granted that you don’t have to drive home topless, and you forget these things.
That maitre d’ is a legend and I will be back to return his shirt and enjoy another delicious repast at his establishment shortly.
Unless I forget.
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