05/24/2012 07:12 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2012

Now Hear This

Most seniors spend money doing things they couldn't afford or didn't have time for before they retired. Some use their retirement savings on golf. Others buy boats, sports cars, lavish gifts for their grandchildren, trips or cruises. My sin of choice is dining out -- a lot. I used to love cooking. I was an innovative, creative cook who derived joy from preparing gourmet meals for my family. But that was in my last life. Now I spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, and then I wonder why I can't lose weight.

Eating out is fattening. I often order fish, dry, without sauce or butter, but one taste and my arteries and hips know damn well something deadly has been added to make it so tasty. A chef once told me that if he obeyed cooking requests of dieters, the food would taste so horrendous, people would never return.

I justify the expense by telling myself that restaurants are great sources for writing material and, in fact, they are. I love to eavesdrop. I've learned a great deal listening to people who don't know they're being spied on. I grabbed my pad and pen when I overheard a woman at a nearby table explaining to her dinner companion how to make papier mache puppets. Then I went home and tried it. What fun that was.

Sunday we went out for brunch. We enjoy reading the paper while we eat. Mighty Marc put coins in the newspaper machine outside the diner, opened it, and reached for a Sunday New York Times.

"Holy @$#!," he said nearly losing his balance in an attempt to lift up the five hundred pound newspaper.

Just then he noticed a couple walking out from the diner. "Do you think they heard me curse?" he asked.

"Yes, but I'm sure they thought you were praying," I assured him.

Once in the diner, the waitress asked for my order. I couldn't decide what to eat, so I recited my laundry list of what I can't eat. "Eggs have cholesterol. French toast has eggs. Pancakes have eggs. Ham, bacon and sausage have cholesterol. Bread is a carbohydrate. Syrup and jelly are carbohydrates. Coffee has caffeine. Oatmeal won't kill me, but if I eat it once more this week, I'll barf and you'll be stuck cleaning it up."

She shifted from one leg to the other, pen poised over her pad.

"Bring me a package of soup oysters, a cup of hot water and several slices of lemon."

"Will that be all?" she asked.

"No. Throw in a side of turkey sandwich on whole wheat toast."

"That comes with french fries or potato chips."

"You had to tell me that?" I scolded. "If you'd have slapped the plate down in front of me I could have picked at whatever obscenity was on it. But now I have to make a responsible choice, damn it. Just bring me a pickle."

The waitress walked away with a head twitch she'd suddenly developed.

We sat reading our paper when I remembered we were supposed to have defrosted chicken for that evening's meal. I looked at Mighty Marc.

"Did you take the chicken out before we left?" I asked.

"No, I thought you had."

The man in the booth behind me turned and looked at us, so I couldn't resist.

"I'd planned on doing that, but I couldn't find her leash."

I figure it's my duty to keep other eavesdroppers informed and educated.