Calling Lyle — it’s closing time

As wacked as I can be, I’m always thankful there are women out there who are not just far battier/scarier but also happen to be on either side of my consort and me when we’re at a bar somewhere, like The West Branch on the night we wandered in after the exceptional “Slumdog Millionaire” and were promised a table in 30 minutes and wound up settling for just where we were. We ordered only appetizers and wine and almost regretted it when the two women to my left got their shared steak frites. All of it smelled sensational and looked even better. Between the two of them, they polished it off to the last ort and turned their attention to our too-refined vitello tonnato. Since they asked what it was, I asked how their meat was. “It was way too salty,” one said. “If you get it, ask for less salt. It was a hanger, so they must have tenderized it with salt.” Oh. Kay. The menu said it was a strip steak, but what does the chef know from tenderizing with salt? And I guess it was so bad they licked the plate — what’s that old punch line about how “the food sucks and the portions are too small”?

Just as those two were swaddling themselves to head out, two women took stools to Bob’s right and I could feel him cringing as wraps swung off and over-toned flesh came out. “They’re scary,” he whispered, and it was hard to argue with young faces that scalpel-hard. I tuned them out until we both noticed the bartender shaking a drink with Cruise-worthy vigor. “What is it?” Bob asked. And his look of resignation said it before he did: “Cosmo.” At least they were only your average consumers of “Sex and the City” who think New York is just like they pictured it on the teevee. Not Russian hookers after all.