I knew this was no fine-dining joint and that was OK with me. I was happy to shovel my own leftovers into a Styrofoam box. What I wasn’t happy about was being witness to the loud monologue coming from the booth at the end of my row of booths where a man I could not see was holding forth to the woman I took to be his wife. (All of this happened over the holiday weekend I should maybe add.)
“Whole place is going to hell!” was the first thing I heard the man say.
“What place?” asked his wife with what sounded like keen trepidation.
“Whole country, that’s what place! Used to be we’d get 1,500 in the Fourth parade!” he roared.
I signaled to the waiter. “On second thought I believe I will take that bowl of popcorn,” I told him. As Diet Girl, I always refuse the roll that comes with your salad. As for popcorn in a bowl is my version of an all-out binge. I ordered it this night in a kind of rattled desperation, the way a man might order a triple martini with a chaser of scotch.
Meanwhile, the man went on: “1,500 people minimum and 150 dogs…”
“Dogs?” asked his wife.
He just ignored her. “These days hardly anybody! Not even half that number!”
“Ah well…” she began in a mollifying tone. But again he wasn’t listening.
“Now what’re they doing? Going AWAY! Going out on their BOATS! With their FRIENDS, and their KIDS, and their friends’ KIDS. I say let ’em go! Hell with ’em!”
“Now WHO are we talking about again?”
“Not that it’ll be much of a parade anyway. And only half the dogs…”
“Hot dogs?” she timidly asked.
“Jeez!” he shouted. “DOG dogs, for cripes sake.”
And then his anger took an even odder turn: “And there’s another group: teachers! Most underworked, overpaid people in the country!”
The topsy-turvy nature of THAT remark stopped me in my tracks. It was all I could do not to lean out of the booth and stare at this guy. Teachers underworked and overpaid TEACHERS?
“Like I say, the whole country is wrecked.” Only he didn’t say ‘wrecked.’
What was most certainly wrecked was the sense of peace that had previously hovered over the six or eight parties dining in earshot of this angry man. We ate our respective meals in relative silence, then humbly stowed our leftovers in our Styrofoam boxes. “It takes all kinds,” I could almost hear us all thinking.
And also “Pity the poor wife,” who could only repeat again her plaintive one-word question: