The Other Table

“Women, they’re the powerful ones.”

That’s the first thing I hear as my husband and I enter a local restaurant.  It’s a hot summer day and we’re looking forward to a relaxing meal and a glass of wine on the patio. I look around. Sitting at the next table are two men. One expounding on women.

“They’ve the babies. Boss us around. Remember Thatcher? Now Kamala. If Biden falls over she’s next. Women are takin’ over.”

A definite east coast accent.

Now they have my attention. I take a closer look. The one speaking is wearing a faded green vest with a couple of rips. He has an unkempt grey beard and looks like he needs a bath. Under the table is a worn looking overstuffed hockey bag. His table mate is a slightly rotund fortyish bald man dressed in a clean T shirt and khaki pants. I can’t help but wonder how these two got together. It seems odd that they never call each other by name. They order another round. I notice there’s no food coming.

We’re enjoying our wine and free entertainment.

The waiting staff, young women, probably students are keeping up a good front but I can sense a bit of concern.

We are social distancing but catch snatches of the conversation at the next table. Bearded Man refers to himself as a Newfie. He has recently come to town looking for work. He’s not too hopeful, “Old. Nobody wants to hire me. Sixty-four y’ know. No money. Nowhere to sleep.”

Now I wonder who’s paying for the beer? They don’t seem to know each other. How is it they’re sitting together?

Bearded Man continues giving his views on politics. “Love Trudeau! Gives stuff away.”

Mumbles from the other side. Sounds as though Chubby Man doesn’t agree.

“Need $20. No food in 4 days.”

More mumbles. Looks like Chubby Man is getting seriously drunk.

Bearded Man repeats, “Lend me $20.” like a mantra. He’s drinking a lot but seems to hold his liquor much better than his companion who is lolling in his chair.

It’s hard to hear a word he says except, “No.” to each request for cash. “Nowhere to sleep. All my stuff’s in the bag under the table.”

Our meal arrives but we are still distracted by the ongoing saga. I feel a bit guilty knowing there is no food arriving for the hungry man at the next table.

There’s a flurry of waiting staff in our vicinity. The manager, a female, arrives at the table. They’re asking Chubby Man for his car keys.  He’s refusing. The manager states patiently, “I’m sorry sir. We can’t serve you more beer unless you give us your car keys.”

Chubby Man slumps further in his chair, listing a bit to one side. I make out, “My wifesh coming. She’cn drive.”

“Your wife was already here sir and she left.”

“Wise woman.” I thought. “Women are the powerful ones.”

Finally, Chubby Man hands his keys over and more beer arrives. Bearded Man smiles.

I’m impressed with the staff who are cheerful and even a little flirtatious.

“Hey, marry me. Have my baby.” Bearded Man asks the pretty waiter.

She replies, “I’ll marry you, but I won’t have your baby!”

“Want a baby!” he retorts.

“No way! Too bad. I’m still in school!” She bounces cheerfully away.

We get the idea that Chubby Man wants to leave. He can’t get up, so he orders more beer. Bearded Man smiles.

We finish our meal and order dessert so we can see how things play out.

More requests for $20. More shaking of the head. I’m starting to feel bad.

We get the feeling that Chubby Man has fallen into a trap. He’s trying to plan an exit while drinking more alcohol and being outwitted and out drunk by his table mate.

It looks as though this will go on for hours. It’s time to go. I wonder how the scene will end. I think about the wise wife who slipped away. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her husband when he gets home. 

Perhaps, I am the one who is duped. On the way out, I slip $20. to Bearded Man hoping he will order a burger. He smiles, mutters something about being old and helpless. In truth, he isn’t that old or indeed, that helpless.

As we exit the patio, my husband comments, perhaps from experience, “It’s never wise to debate with someone who can hold his liquor better than you!”

Joanne Renzoni can be followed on Twitter @renzonijoanne.

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