Maintaining my anonymity while traveling is always a top priority for me, and whenever I review restaurants with companions other than my spouse, I take pains to remind them not to divulge my profession to anyone. For example, when I invited a cousin to dine with me at the Sophy Hyde Park’s restaurant, Mesler, I reminded her that as far as anyone in the hotel or restaurant was concerned, I sold insurance*.
We had a delightful time catching up over dinner, enjoying perhaps one too many glasses of wine. As our waiter cleared the plates from our delicious main courses of maple-miso-glazed salmon and roast chicken, he asked if we were teachers. It’s a reasonable assumption in Hyde Park, home to The University of Chicago. He looked at me — I was wearing glasses — and said, “You must be a teacher.”
Before I could reply, my tipsy cousin cut in. “No, he sells insurance,” emphasizing the word “insurance” so that it sounded like some sort of euphemism. I shot her a glare.
The waiter returned his gaze to me and said, “Ah, you know, I thought for sure you must be a professor or something, because —”
My cousin, failing to take my hint, interrupted him. “No, he’s an insurance salesman.” She managed to make the words “insurance salesman” sound as if they meant “mafioso.”
The waiter, wisely, replied, “Excellent,” and made a hasty retreat.
“What on earth are you doing?” I asked my cousin.
“I just thought you might like to sell him some insurance,” she said, innocent as could be. Fortunately, the waiter did not ask for my business card.
*Not the actual profession I use as my cover.