‘NOW IS THE WINTER of our discontent,” starts Shakespeare’s myopically Tudor play based on Richard III’s reign, but written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (the Tudor granddaughter of Richard’s usurper Henry VII).
In it, Richard is painted in an unflattering light, which is ironic considering that many historians regard his reign as unusually enlightened. History aside, the saying occurred to me in a much more pragmatic sense — it was freaking cold.
Every time the front door opened a blast of super-chilled air raised the ire in our little bar, making me wax nostalgic for summer, which sort of echoes the next line in the play, “made glorious summer by this sun of
As if on cue, a woman in a tank top with a scarf and gloves with her friend, in a tank top turtleneck, sat down at the bar. Whoever said fashion made sense?
“Do you have Keoke coewfees” she asked as only a New Yorker can ask.
A man waiting for his to-go order took notice of her attire, and it wasn’t the gloves or the scarf.
“You ladies aren’t from around here, are you?” he asked while simultaneously covering his left hand with his right, hiding his wedding ring.
I’ve worked in bars for a long time and have noticed that women rarely flirt meaningfully with a man wearing a wedding ring. In fact, the first thing they usually do is look at a man’s left hand. Men, on the other hand …
“Can I buy you two a drink?” he asked right after I informed him that we were out of the hot dogs on the children’s menu.
“Two grilled cheeses then,” he said to me.
“You have a beautiful smile,” he said to her without missing a beat.
They giggled and then substituted cognac for the brandy in their drinks, effectively doubling the cost. They were no fools.
The married man eventually took the seat of another patron who had left to join his own family for dinner, just as his to-go order arrived.
“That will be $42,” I said, noting internally that the two women’s drinks cost nearly that much.
“You got the salad with dressing on the side, right? And the side of spinach is steamed, right?”
“Your eyes sparkle beautifully,” he said to Ms. Tanktop.
Thirty minutes later, the phone rang. The hostess headed my way and asked, “Is there a guy waiting for a to-go order here?”
I pointed at the man now holding Ms. Tanktop’s hand and looking deep into her eyes.
“Can you tell him his wife is on the phone?”
Tact is everything in a bar and, in the interest of it, I said, “Sir, you have a phone call.”
He headed to the hostess podium, leaving what was by now a lukewarm dinner sitting bagged on the bar.
“You should go for it,” said Ms. Turtleneck, giving her friend some of the worst advice ever.
“I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Married argued vehemently on the phone with his unseen wife. Eventually, he returned.
“I have to go,” he said paying his bill.
Ms. Tanktop wasn’t there to hear it because she was now occupied with her own cellphone in the lobby.
“Call her sometime,” said Ms. Turtleneck handing the married man what could only have been Ms. Tanktop’s phone number.
“That was my husband,” said the returning Ms. Tanktop, her New York accent gone. “He wants to know when we’re coming home.”
For the first time I noticed the wedding ring on her finger, which left me with a few thoughts:
• Shakespeare wasn’t the only one obviously myopic.
• Spending $100 for two salads, a side of spinach and two cold sandwiches is probably going to elicit some questions about a credit card bill.
• John Steinbeck’s novel “The Winter of Our Discontent” deals with two themes: losing one’s moral compass and the drawbacks of listening to others’ advice.
• Calling around to check up on your spouse may actually be sidestepping the real problem.