Sunday, May 23, 2010
While visiting in Cleveland, we went to a nice Italian restaurant and it was a busy Saturday night. Gerald and I were shown to our table at a banquette. It was a perfect seating arrangement for me as I have the "gunfighter's syndrome"--I don't like my back to anybody when I'm seated--I could view the other patrons as they dined and my favorite avocation is watching people. In the rear left of us was a large table with eight people sitting. The waiter took our drink orders and I noticed that a couple across from us got up and carried their drinks with them to another section of the restaurant. Another couple was seated in the same spot prior to our drinks arriving.
At the large table, it was obvious that it was a family gathering and from the conversation, I was able to glean that the assemblage consisted of the parents (probably in their 70s) and their daughter and two sons with their respective spouses. The "pater familias" was loud, obnoxious, and domineering and an expert on every topic discussed. I could hear nearly all of the conversation. The older man, in a loud voice, said to one of the sons, "So you're telling me that you think things are better today than they were fifty years ago?" I could not hear the son's response. The older man went on expounding about the "good old days" and describing how awful things were now compared to "his day".
Before our appetizer came, the second couple who were seated across from us requested to be moved. I asked Gerald, "Do you think it's something I did?" Gerald laughed and said, "I don't think it's YOU, Sweetheart!"
A third couple was seated before our soups arrived. When the third couple heard the loud booming voice, the woman rolled her eyes and she and I gave each other commiserating looks.
With our entrees complete, the waiter asked if we would like dessert. We decined and when I rose from the table, my husband knew that I was NOT going to the powder room. I went to the large table and stood next to the "pater familias" and I leaned over and said in a low voice, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation." The entire family leaned forward [it was like the old E. F. Hutton commercials!] as I continued, "I have the answer for the question you asked your son." The old guy was amazingly lower-voiced when he answered, "Which one?" I said, "About whether things are worse now than they were 50 years ago."
The patriarch laughed and asked, "So, whadda ya think?" I said, "Things are MUCH better now, because fifty years ago, where I live, the swimming pool was segregated, the roller rink was segregated, the Country Club was segregated, the movie theater was segregated, restaurants were segregated, and the churches and clubs were all segregated!'
The old guy harrumphed and said, "Well, that's YOUR opinion." I said, "Oh, no, it's NOT an opinion, sir, it's a FACT!" I turned away before he had a chance to respond! As we walked away a couple stopped us and said, "Thank you for shutting up that old windbag!" I said, "I'm afraid if his wife hasn't accomplished it by now that nobody ever will!"
What I hated most of all was that I could tell the ethnic background of the group from their conversation and they were living up to god-awful stereotypes!