Monday, January 23, 2017

Requesting Quiet

"I had a mole removed," my friend said. "I hate these new parking meters. You need a degree to figure them out." She gave me a look. "It was biopsied," she said. I nodded. I could see her lips moving, but for the life of me had no idea what she was saying. And yet, it would be rude not to keep the conversation going. "Someone should invent a napkin that doesn't leave lint all over your black jeans." Once again, her lips started to move. "The doctor said it's benign." A pocket of quiet allowed "doctor" to escape. "Oh. Did you finally get that mole looked at?" She lifted a stale bread roll and hurled it directly at my head, splitting my brain in half. (Not really, but I think she wanted to hurt me at this juncture.) "I just told you I did!" "Sorry, hon, I can't hear an eff'n thing in here."

Another birthday lunch in a Studio City restaurant that I could've sworn was empty when I arrived. A letdown for the owners, a celebration for those of us who worship silence. I picked a comfy spot and sat down, and soon my friend arrived. We hugged, as all girlfriends do, and told each other how great we both looked, which in our case, was true. We proceeded to catch up. She'd just been to London. I'd just been to Gelson's. We had a lot of culture to sift through, and nothing to distract us. We placed our orders and settled in for a long chat, near-giddy with our barren surroundings. Even on a rainy day, this was a rare occasion. The only explanation: the hot new cafe that had just opened a few doors down.

Suddenly, the loudest group of women in the universe arrived, via limo from Costa Mesa, and ruined our sanctuary. There were eight of them, I think, but it felt more like eighty, as they stormed in with their shopping bags and territorial zeal. "We want THAT table in the corner!" one of them yelled. Her voice echoed off the walls. I looked at my friend. "Let's move." An elegant, well-traveled shiksa, she seemed reluctant to make a fuss. I reminded her of my heritage, which was probably unnecessary, because she'd attended at least one of my son's bar mitzvahs. "Just follow me."

And so, we gathered our forks and knives, our water glasses and lint-producing napkins, our basket of stale bread, and stomped to the other side of the restaurant, full of attitude. We planted our butts in the far corner by the window. "Much better," she said. Of course, I didn't want to tell her that our move had been merely symbolic. The interlopers may have seen us high-tail it in a huff, but they cared not one iota. Still, I wanted my friend to hang on to that shred of hope. "Uh-huh," I said. She took a dainty bite of her salad. "You've done this before, haven't you?" "Please," I said. "This is a Jackie Mason routine. This is what my people do in restaurants: we complain. It's too cold, it's too hot, we hate this table. I spent my childhood following relatives from booth to booth, to get out of drafts. This is nothing."

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