Having survived my check ride in fine fashion, we headed out to our favorite restaurant to blow off some steam. It’s always crowded, any time of any day. We waited while a rather large group argued with the hostess over the wait time. Not wanting to interrupt the discussion, I stood back until it was safe to approach the podium. Poised to make my move, I heard Mrs. Sarcasm say, “No we’re waiting in line.”
I turned to catch a blur of gold, brushing past my spouse, maneuvering to get around me. She wore a leopard print blouse and spiked amber hair. It looked like she’d missed her last thirty Botox treatments. She was heading for that podium out of turn, and if she got there first, it would add to our wait. Normally I avoid conflict like the plague. I must have been high on adrenalin after fighting simulated engine fires and mid-air collisions. I stepped right in front of the old bag and confronted her straight on.
“No,” I said. “We actually are waiting in line.”
“Well, excuse me,” she scoffed. “I didn’t know.”
Except that she’d just been told.
I got on the list and waited to be called. Mrs. Sarcasm expressed some displeasure at my handling of the situation.
“You’ve got to be nicer to people.”
“Are you nuts?” I asked. “I said exactly the same thing you did.”
“But it was the way you said it. You shouldn’t treat people like that.”
“So...what? I should have let her cheat her way ahead of us to get on the list?”
Just then, another group entered the waiting area, complaining of someone pushing past them to get to the head of the line. I gave Mrs. Sarcasm an I told you so look. The we got seated. A few minutes later, the hostess brought the golden raisin to the next table. I had my back to her, but I could hear every word.
“I couldn’t believe it,” the old lady told the hostess. “I’ve never been treated like that. Never! He got right in my face.”
There was an intensity on Mrs. Sarcasm’s face. She locked eyes with my newest nemesis. Then I heard the old bag boast, “He’s just lucky my husband was parking the car.”
“Did I just hear that right?” I asked.
Mrs. Sarcasm nodded. “Okay. You can be mean.” Then she laughed. “I wonder which one is her husband.”
I turned to see three old men taking their seats. It was the kind of group that takes ten minutes to back out of a parking space. They wouldn’t last long in a light breeze. I laughed at the thought, imagining their toupees flapping in the wind.
“Something funny Bub?” I heard a quivering voice from behind.
Huh? Mrs. Sarcasm nearly spit her drink in my face laughing. I didn’t turn around. If I ignore it, surely it will go away.
“Hey!” he said. “Turn around when I’m talking to you.”
What would Larry do?
(For the newbies, this is the part where I act out what Larry David would do in this situation.)
“Is this for real?” I asked Mrs. Sarcasm. I drew a hand across my face in exhausted annoyance and slowly turned in my seat to face my accuser.
“Excuse me?” I asked. “Were you talking to me?”
“Apologize to my wife,” he demanded.
I looked over the table. There had to be close to a thousand years worth of eyes glaring at me. Now, I wasn’t the least bit sorry. Nor did I want to deal with this when I was there to celebrate.
“Okay,” I shrugged, munching on tortilla chips. “Sorry.” And I turned back to my food. But Mrs. Sarcasm was still facing them, and from the look in her eyes, this was not over.
“Is that how you apologize? With a mouthful of food.”
“No respect,” one old lady said.
“That’s the kids these days,” an old man said. “They’re all like this.”
I smiled and shook my head. South Florida is always interesting this time of year. I followed my wife's eyes as they rose. The next thing I knew, the meek old man was looming over me.
“Apologize,” he demanded again.
“I just did,” I said.
“Not while you’re eating,” his voice rose. “Stand up, and apologize like a man.”
“Are you out of your mind?” I asked. F0lks at nearby tables were starting to take notice. “I told you I already apologized. Remember? It was a minute ago.”
“We don’t accept it. You had a mouthful of chips.”
“Well, it’s a Mexican restaurant.”
“You have to swallow first,” one of his buddies chimed in. “Show some respect.”
“So I can’t have chips and apologize?”
“It’s very rude,” said the old lady. “You’ve been rude since you came in here.”
This from the woman who tried to line jump.
“No,” I said, slowly rising from my chair. “I’ve been quite patient. And I have respect.” I wagged a finger. “I respect polite society, and all of its conventions.”
“Oh please?” she said. “You got right in my face.”
“No. I didn’t,” I shook my head vigorously. “I didn’t get in your face. I blocked your path,” I nodded. “I stopped you from cutting in line. I didn’t get in your face. This is getting in your face.” And then I did.
Pretty soon the wait staff had stopped to watch. The hostess was on her way over.
“You call this respect?” she said. Her husband tried to move me. I backed away, having made my point.
“No,” I said. “This isn’t respect. This is what you do when you don’t have respect. Much like, say, cutting in line to get ahead at a restaurant.”
“What line?” she said. “There was no line. You were just standing there.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Waiting my turn. And you did know.”
“She was trying to get a table,” said the husband.
“We’re all trying to get a table,” I said. “There’s a procedure for that. You have to follow it. If I come in after you, I wait my turn.”
“You’re just being a bully,” one of the old men said. “She’s a little old lady You got up in her face.”
Now I had ‘em, so I squinted one eye, raised both index fingers and spread them apart like windshield wipers.
“Okay,” I nodded. “I see what’s happened here. I think, my friends…you hast been deceived. Let me explain what happened in a way your centenarian minds can comprehend.”
“What did he say,” shouted one of the wives.
“This little old lady didn’t just cut to the head of the line – oh no. She actually asked my wife if we were waiting in line. And when she learned we were, that’s when she tried to move ahead of us. I was there, by the grace of God, simply to re-establish order.”
I stood there, arms folded, looking at each member of their group in turn, satisfied I’d made my point. They looked back dumbfounded. I’d surely bested them. It would be a long time before this group tried to line-jump.
“All right,” said the manager, having arrived on the scene. “What seems to be the problem?”
Certain a problem no longer existed, I returned to my meal.
“That is the man who threatened me,” said the old lady in gold.
The manager turned on me with an accusing glare. “You threatened these people?”
“No,” I said. “What I did was ensure that your seating procedures remained in effect.”
“He threatened my wife.”
“You can’t threaten people. This is a family restaurant. No threatening here. You go.”
“What?” I said.
“You leave,” said the manager. “You don’t come here again.”
“Is he serious?” I asked Mrs. Sarcasm.
The old folks were all smiles. If they weren’t careful their dentures would fall out from overexposure. Defeated, I headed for the exit. My wife stayed behind to pay for our drinks. As she made her way toward me, I heard one of the old men tell her, “You’re very pretty. You can do a lot better.”
I can’t be certain, because I closed my eyes to shake my head in disbelief, but I think I saw Mrs. Sarcasm nodding.