I really felt bad about it. I hadn't meant to shoot the guy in the back. He didn't even seem to notice the thick, red, coagulating liquid that was oozing slowly down the back of his shirt.
It was identical to the liquid strewn across my own face and neck, like a slash wound from a sweet-tangy scimitar.
As I apologized to the gentleman, a spry fellow of some 80 years or so who was probably a regular customer at this particular IHOP, I myself was trying to recover from the tragedy, reliving the previous few moments which in hindsight seemed to happen in slow motion.
It all started when the IHOP waitress delivered our lunch, part of which was our 6-year-old's cheeseburger with fries. Me being the Awesome dad I am, I grabbed the ketchup bottle to dispense a blob for the kid's dipping pleasure.
And like every experienced ketchup pourer, I take the usual precaution of shaking the ketchup bottle to mix in that watery ketchup juice that always perks it's way up to the top of the bottle (a substance I call "ketchup tea" and it's just as disgusting as it sounds).
This is were it all goes badly awry. Someone, some diabolical joker or lazy loser, had left the cap of the ketchup sitting on top of the bottle, but unscrewed.
The upshot: When I gave the bottle a couple of vigorous shakes, the lid flew off, followed by ketchup spewing across the table, across my face and neck, and across the back of the gentleman sitting behind me.
As I apologized profusely to the guy, I realized he wasn't upset at all. In fact, as patrons at other tables observed in shocked entertainment, the fellow actually wanted to have a conversation about the event.
He seemed like the kind of guy who would get a lot of mileage out of this story with his friends at the coffee shop, the barber shop and everywhere else he hangs out with his geriatric homies.
But as much as I was sorry for the ketchup massacre, I still had lunch to eat and I was getting grossed out standing there with ketchup all over my face, neck and shirt.
I cut the old guy off in mid-reminisce and made my way though the lunchtime crowd to the restroom where I took off my shirt (luckily I was wearing a t-shirt underneath) and used a healthy helping of paper towels and soapy water to wash the rapidly ripening ketchup from my head and neck.
We finished our lunch in relative calm. As we left, I shot the guy a final apologetic look.
He winked and said "At least it wasn't mustard."
tagged: family, food, dining, ketchup, awkward, IHOP