We are in a crowded riverside diner, one with a reputation for mediocre food and legendary drinking. We are weary from holiday shopping and visiting. Traffic has been impossible. This is not our first choice for lunch, but we are here, there was a good parking space and we are all ravenous.
"So," I say to the greasy waiter, "how's the food here?"
"That depends," he says. "If you get the good cook, it's pretty good."
"Yeah?" I say.
"And if you get the bad cook," he says with a lopsided toothy grin, "it's not so good."
There are a dozen questions I want to ask regarding the Good Cook and the Bad Cook. Is it a matter of their respective dispositions? Does Good wear a white hat? Does Bad don a black cloak? Does he have a hook instead of a right hand? A peg leg? Do the teeth of Good sparkle beneath the orange heat lamps? Does he become powerless when faced with Kryptonite?
Fortunately for everyone involved, I ask none of these things and say simply, "That's fair enough. I'll take my chances with the steak sandwich." My betrothed orders a ham omelet, my kid a grilled cheese sandwich.
Of course, I am unable to leave the Good Cook Bad Cook topic completely alone. "If we get the good cook," I say, handing the waiter my menu, "tell him that we've heard he's a good cook, that his reputation proceeds him. Tell him we're honored to have him preparing our meal."
"And what if you get the bad cook?" asks the waiter, a challenge.
"Tell him the same thing."