David Hatala claims no kinship to Cupid, but as operator of a fondue restaurant where proposals of marriage are common, he’s a willing accomplice upon request. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of suitors have popped the question in the intimate “lovers’ lane” area tucked away inside The Melting Pot, an upscale eatery in Arlington.
He happily strives to accommodate “ring bearers,” and he thought a recent vignette might be a unique prelude to the upcoming Valentine proposal season. (Poets have written of such across the centuries. For example, Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1835 chilled winter’s grip, telling of a young man’s springtime fancy turning to thoughts of love.)
Romantics believe such thoughts are harbored by both men and women all winter long.
Anyway, the saga began on a Thursday, shortly after dark. Into the restaurant moseyed a cowboy-looking guy, guitar case in hand. (Call him Barney.) “There’s going to be a mighty big moment in my life — if you can help me out,” the visitor said. “I drove over two hours in heavy holiday traffic to get here because I’m determined to ‘get it right.’”
Sensing that he might be vital to “getting it right,” Hatala snapped to attention, ready to assist. Barney explained that he’d been dating a woman for several years and was ready to extend a marriage proposal. “I want to see about a reservation here Saturday night for the big moment.”
“You’ll get the corner booth in lovers’ lane, and the most romantic melodies in our musical arsenal will waft through the air with the aroma of a wonderful dinner,” the proprietor promised.
“We won’t need any ‘canned music,’” Barney countered. “I’ve composed both music and lyrics for a special proposal. I’ll leave my guitar here today, and when it’s chocolate-dipping time, I’ll wink at the waitperson to deliver it. Then, I’ll get down on one knee to make my marriage proposal in song.”
Hatala, impressed that a man would make a 300-mile round-trip to cover all preparatory bases, pledged to silence the house music at wink time.
Thus the proposal plan was in place.
Just 48 hours later, the couple was directed to the promised booth.
Finishing 90 minutes of fonduing morsels of meats and veggies, the pair was ready for dessert. The chocolate repast was in place and one wink led to delivery of the guitar and the elimination of house music.
After a single verse of the “proposal,” potential for problems prevailed. “He was one-note Charlie as a guitarist,” Hatala said. “His singing was worse and the lyrics were horrible.” The owner knew if he didn’t act quickly, other guests might chose exiting over eating.
On the second verse, the woman answered, yelling several decibels louder than her suitor’s musical mess-up: “No way on God’s green earth I’m gonna marry you!”
Hatala acted quickly, making a timely turn-up of house music in a “return to regular programming.” Some guests whispered in hushed tones, wondering about the commotion. (One thought a waiter had dropped a tray of dishes and was lamenting the loss in song.)
The couple finished dessert in silence, then double-timed out of the restaurant.
“At least they didn’t ask for separate checks,” the restaurateur said. “And I made sure to hand him his guitar case as they left.”
Hatala figures conversation was frosty at best — absent at worst — during the couple’s 150-mile trip home.
Reflecting on the experience, he’s trying to figure out the whole scenario. “Maybe the guy was determined to propose at a fondue restaurant and The Melting Pot was closest,” he reasoned.
“Cupid’s accomplice can only do so much,” Hatala said, admitting the probability that we can “stick a fork” in this couple’s relationship. Sometimes, I guess, fondue can become “fon-don’t.”
“Cupid’s arrow doesn’t always hit the mark,” he said. “But I’ll keep on aiming to please.”
Two things for sure: If he sees the guy again up the way, he’ll mumble something about a broken knob on the music system and that his insurance no longer covers guitar storage.