People Sitting Next to You in Restaurants
They’re not bad. They just laugh and make too much noise.
But look at the fun they’re having! Maybe you’re not mad
but jealous. Actually, some are bad, like the bigot
in the pretty café in Venice who was paying
and used that leverage to browbeat his guests into silence, calling one
stupid and telling another he was a traitor because
he didn’t agree with his host on foreign policy.
So what? If your friends are dumb or unpatriotic,
you should either treat them kindly or get new friends.
You should certainly treat them kindly if you’re sitting next
to other people, i.e., me. And sometimes you are
the other person, as I was in that snout-to-tail restaurant
in London where Barbara ordered something sensible,
like a piece of fish, whereas I got the pig’s head.
I thought it was a metaphor. It wasn’t. It was a pig’s head,
with flappy ears and slits for eyes and little teeth
you could see because its mouth was slightly open
in a little piggy grin, as though it was glad I wanted to eat it.
There were three rail-thin folks one table
over, arty types dressed in black who looked as though they lived
on air and lettuce who kept pointing at the pig’s head
and jabbering away in a language I didn’t understand;
I had no idea what they were saying, but I bet it wasn’t,
“O that lucky man, to be eating such
a delicious pig’s head!” And “O that lucky pig, to be eaten by
such a distinguished gentleman!” Once a couple sat down next
to us at a restaurant in Florence, and it took me a while
to realize the man was a famous TV actor, but I knew
you never got anywhere by saying
“you’re a famous TV actor” to anyone, whether they are or not,
so I (a) addressed myself to his wife and (b) asked her
how she liked her meal, not whether or not it was fun
to be married to a famous TV actor. Very much!
she replied, and from there we went on
to talk about Italian art and actually made a date to meet the next
day at the Uffizi and look at the Botticellis.
I’m thinking that, the next time I order something
unsightly, I’ll only do it if the people next to me
have ordered something unsightly
themselves or seem about ready to do so, though how I would
know that is beyond me. Appearances are so
deceiving! The bigot in the Venetian café looked
like a nice fellow; certainly his suit was expensive.
Not everything in life is a Botticelli.
Maybe we should pretend that it is, though, that all people are nice,
all dishes appetizing, If you find yourself sitting
next to me in a restaurant, please come over
and introduce yourself. “David!” you’ll say. “It’s me,”
and state your name. You’ll order
one thing, I’ll order another, and then we’ll go look at the Titians.about the author