Despite everything going on in the world, inside it still felt like a bar. And take it from a bartender, bars feel a certain way: good bars, bad bars, upscale bars, downscale bars, they all have their own unique feel about them, almost like a living breathing thing. Of course, it is the living breathing component of the bar that has the largest impact upon that feeling, whether it’s standing behind it or sitting in front of it.
The two groups of people sitting at two different tables might be unaware of such minutiae. A visitor to a beach might only be aware of the tide on that day, but the person who lives on the beach is aware of the tides as a whole. And take it from the one living on that particular beach, that tide was now coming in.
“I’m going to need that table back in a few minutes,” said the hostess, evidencing the tide and echoing a new policy in such limited seating times. When a restaurant is as 25 to 50 percent capacity, they simply cannot afford to have idleness. Something that is often explained to you when you sit down. Whether or not you listen is a different matter entirely.
You could tell their time was up because both parties had already put on their masks, and just ask any service person, almost nobody puts on their mask until they have to. Ironically, it was this shared interest in masks, and in leaving that caused both groups to finally notice each other.
“Are you ladies staying?” asked one of the members of the “male” group.
“That depends,” replied one of the members of the “female” group.
The still standing hostess shook her head to no avail.
Bolstered by the vagueness inherent in such a response, one of the men stood up. Only to realize that he couldn’t go anywhere.
“We wanna buy those ladies a drink,” he then bellowed towards the bar triangulating his intention.
“Wait a minute,” said his wedding ring wearing friend. “I don’t think that is such a good idea.”
The “not a good idea” part being somewhat vague in its own right.
“First we gotta see what we are working with,” he said.
And that was not the “not a good idea” that most people would have come up with.
The ladies played coy. Either because they weren’t really interested or because they were. Which I believe is the very essence of being coy.
“Well maybe we need to see what we are working with first,” responded one of the ladies.
“So, it’s a show me yours and I’ll show you mine situation?” asked the friend of the man with the wedding ring.
“I guess it is,” she replied.
Covid might have put a damper on meeting new people, but it certainly hasn’t extinguished it.
“You go first,” said the woman.
Love may have inspired some of the greatest achievements in humankind: the building of the Taj Mahal, the love poems of Shakespeare, Keats and Poe, the invasion of Troy, but love has also inspired enough banal drivel to populate the rest of the world too.
When the infantile back and forth subsided, the women took the initiative. Like a bawdy burlesque show involving only their masks, the woman removed theirs, unveiling ever so slowly. First, they removed the straps one at a time, replacing the removed one before then removing the other. Then it was removing both straps but holding the mask onto their faces with just one hand.
The group of men were mesmerized, sitting on their heels in the booth like prepubescent boys feeling the first twinge of that ending prepubescence.
Finally, the women removed their masks entirely, in unison, just for a moment, before putting them back on.
The men hooted and hollered as men (or boys) so often do.
“Your turn,” said one of the ladies batting long eyelashes above her mask.
The men ripped their masks off in a rush, as men are wont to do. The smiles underneath ran ear to ear.
The ladies took one look at the men, looked at each conspiratorially and then the one damsel with long eyelashes spoke.
“Nah,” she said. “We’re good.”
The ladies then laughed, paid their check, and left.
Leaving three men dumfounded and me with these thoughts:
-It is not unusual to hear the ugliest man in a group declare that “looks are all that matter to him.”
-“A bride at her second wedding does not wear a veil, she wants to see what she is getting,” once wrote noted American journalist and humorist Helen Rowland.
-“A mask tells us more than a face,” once said Oscar Wilde. A notion I now disagree with totally.
-If looks are all that matter to you, then you better take another good long look in the mirror.