You probably know exactly what I’m talking about — you and a friend are out for one of the many and varied happy hours around Boulder. You’re happy to be out, happy to have friends to be out with, and, most of all, you feel like a rock star because you’re about to get such a good deal.
Today we debut Vivian Underhill’s “Boulder Frugalista,” a weekly look at cost-conscious living in the People’s Republic. Check it out every Tuesday.
“One-dollar sushi!” the sign may have shouted, or maybe the website coyly advertised two-for-one bottled beers in small print. And you noticed it, so now you get to be the one to work the system.
You’re clearly a frugalista extraordinaire. You’re playing the capitalist game to your advantage; you can now condescend to all those full-price-paying fools; you’re Ms. Monopoly herself.
Alas, what goes up must also come down, and this euphoria only lasts until you realize — perhaps for the fourth or fifth time — the sad truth: happy hours are rarely as good as they seem.
That $1 sushi? Well, they actually only meant the specialty tempura shrimp eye sushi, and only when you order fries with it. And those two-for-one beers are only actually two-for-one if you have red hair or tap your head with your shoe three times when you sit down.
Anyway, it’s 6:05, not 6, so the rest is irrelevant. For you, simple average fellow, everything is full price.
And this leaves you suddenly agape and lost, disillusioned — and in a severely awkward position.
The condescension of all the real frugalista extraordinaires around you is making your face burn and it’s hard to think. Your server is waiting for your response, and you are well aware that they also have four other tables to serve.
You’ve already been seated for a couple minutes so you can’t easily apologize and leave. You could just suck it up and pay full price, but that’s not exactly in your budget — and besides, it’s against the principle of the thing. It has now gone from just uncomfortable to an awkward-fest of massive proportions, and your friends are glaring at you, because, of course, this “budget” outing was your idea.
As you might have noticed by now, maybe from my faux bitter tone or the overt hyperbole in my descriptions, this kind of error is not an uncommon occurrence in my life.
Being that I don’t have a taste for shrimp, eyes, tempura or any combination thereof, and removing my shoe doesn’t often come to mind as the logical progression after shaking out my napkin, I don’t often get the happy hour thing quite right.
And really, the truth is that happy hours make restaurants a lot of money, precisely because of people like me. I’m not saying happy hours belong in the seventh circle of hell, nor are they merely evil. No, I love happy hours.
It just takes more guile and preparation than you would think to actually get the good ones. Since it’s painful to be unskilled at something you love, I’ve given some thought to possible solutions to this dilemma.
You could make sure to always carry a lighter and flammable socks, so at this point you can surreptitiously light your socks on fire and have a completely justified reason to run out of the Den of Disgrace, screaming. The other restaurant patrons will totally understand.
You could hire a small talking monkey or a younger sibling to go in first and find out all the tricks. Watch them with binoculars. If they completely and totally fail, then you can at least console yourself by judging them mercilessly and mirthfully.
My personal favorite is simply to hang out with people who are more organized and better at research than I am. That way, you all have a better chance of success.
And if you still get caught being distinctly not red-headed — even after arguing that the words brunette and red share a letter, so clearly they’re practically the same — then at least you get to do the glaring.
You still may have to pay full price, or walk out with shame burning a hole through your back, but at least you can blame it on someone else.
Vivian Underhill’s “Boulder Frugalista” appears every Tuesday in the Colorado Daily.