Two older women walk into a pizza joint. They shuffle on unsteady legs to their table. When seated they nervously ask the waitress the price of each item, and their running total so far. Starting with a salad, two slices, and a soda each, they quickly delete items to get under $20. No salad, one slice each. "Is the bread free?" they ask hopefully. Painfully hopefully.
On one side of the two old women sits a young couple. One surmises they have escaped from a tiny child or two and are luxuriating in being adult and alone together, if only for a stolen hour. One the other side is a mature couple. One imagines their children successfully out of the nest and them trying to adapt to being alone together, now for the rest of their lives.
The young couple gets the waitress' attention. Discretely they tell the waitress, give the women a second slice each, on us. She nods and scurries off, scribbling on her order pad.
The mature couple on the other side flag down the waitress. Give the women that salad, on us, they say, unobtrusively.
The women, as one item after the other is delivered splutter their disbelief. The waitress winks at the couples and each of them, in turn, assures the women that it's all right; they should enjoy it, if only just this once.
And, as the waitress walks past the bar toward the kitchen the college kid grabbing a slice and a beer before heading to his night class slips her a ten. Your tip, he tells her, for taking care of the two women.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)