Egg money

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A classic George Ostrom column, from November, 1969...

It was evening. We were northbound on the Santa Ana Freeway and I took the wrong exit at 75 mph.

Cal was crouched in the suicide seat with every knuckle showing white. Two hours later, we were still lost, miles from our hotel. Then, suddenly we were on a wide street and there was a sign that said “Grauman’s Chinese Theatre,” so I knew were still in California. The traffic was slower there and some color began to return to Cal’s cheeks. I pulled the renta-car to the curb for a conference.

“What’ll we do, Cal?”

“Just find some quiet place where we can get a bite to eat and a little nerve tonic.”

“Would you like to drive, Cal?”

“We’re still alive, so you’re batting a thousand. Just pull into the first clean looking place where we can get some food and a little nerve tonic.”

The first place we came to was the Hollywood Playboy Club. “George, we can’t get in there without a key.”

“We’ll spend the egg money for a key for me and then you can be my guest.”

“SPEND THE EGG MONEY! You must be crazy. Let’s just drive on and…look what’s in there! Here’s my egg money.”

Once we got the key, we went to the restroom to comb out hair and that’s the first time we ever saw a john with telephones. I nudged Cal and whispered, “Don’t act like we’re new here. Call home and report in.”

“What’ll my wife think if somebody flushes while I’m on the phone?”

“She’ll just think we’re very busy down here.”

It was pretty dark where we had to eat, but we could tell our waitress had long ears, a bunny tail and a freckled chest.

The darkness is what caused all the trouble. When our bunny brought the salt and pepper, the salt was really fine ground white pepper, which Cal and I both used liberally. At the first bite, we knew something was wrong…neither of us normally cry in public.

“Bunny, did you know our salt is actually very hot pepper? Our food is ruined! We’re dying! Bring gallons of water, quickly!”

She brought the water. She appeared ready to cry. She’d never had this happen before. She thought she might be fired.

Cal and I faced a major crisis.

Did we want to see this innocent little bunny rabbit thumped out of the bunny club, stripped of her ears and powder puff tail? Did we want to wait another hour for another dinner? Did we want to face the head rabbit and cause a scene in the mink-lined cabbage patch?

In our hearts we somehow knew that no man rats on a cute little bunny rabbit. We used several napkins and we wiped the pepper off the corn-on-the-cob, the prime rib, the potatoes and even the salad. We ate the stuff and the tears flowed. Our lips burned and the ice water turned to steam as we gulped after every bite, but we ate the dinner.

Outside in the parking lot, we could see the ten million lights gleaming below Beverly Hills and I handkerchiefed the beads of sweat from my burning brow. “Cal, don’t ever tell anybody old George doesn’t know how to have a hot time in L.A.”

“Old George, you’ve got two days to figure out a good story to tell my wife about the egg money or I’ll show you how to have a hot time in Kalispell, Montana.”

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