Sunday, February 23, 2014

                                                Strangers Are Truer Than Fiction

     So we’re standing in a waterfront restaurant waiting for a table on Valentine’s Day, and an attractive older woman strikes up a conversation. She is the kind of person you instantly like because she’s vibrant, interesting and interested. She lives in the community where we are vacationing, and she is telling us about the sites, giving us some local flavor.She and her husband are both tennis players, so we have an immediate connection. Her 88-year-old husband is at the bar getting drinks. When she divulges this, I immediately scrutinize her, looking for age clues. I determine she is considerably younger than him. She introduces him to me and Mr. Wonderful who is always friendly and eager to learn about the area. Then she leans in to me and says, “He can barely hear.” At this point, the nice man goes and sits down on a bench. She and I remain standing, while Mr. Wonderful goes over and talks to the nice man. We all have a lovely time until the our light thingy goes off, and it’s time to be seated.

Here’s the dilemma: Do we invite these total strangers (one who can barely hear) to join us for dinner? In a matter of seconds the following thoughts race through my mind: Do we want to sit with these people for over an hour when one will barely hear what we say? Do we want to listen for an hour to people who we will probably never see again? Do they want to be alone on Valentine’s Day. Do couples still do it at that age?  Do you have to hear to do it? Do we put them on the spot and embarrass ourselves if they say no? Do we want to be alone? I wonder what the food is like. This wine is wonderful. 

     All this is going through my mind in the five seconds we had to make a decision. We politely say how nice it was to meet them and go to our table for two. Feeling like I just earned the Bad Citizen Award, I give Mr. Wonderful the “didwedotherightthing?” look. 

     A few minutes later, after we’ve settled into the bread basket, they appear with the host who is seating them next to us. If I didn’t feel guilty before, now I’m feeling really awkward. Mr. Wonderful says under his breath, “Well, they could have asked us to join them. They have room for four.” omg. Now I’m saying to myself: Do I turn around to talk to them. Do I sit with my back to them and act like we never met? Do I smile occasionally during the evening letting them know I notice them? Should we have initiated an evening together? This woman could have been a lifelong friend, and the next time we visit, we could have all played tennis together. I’m not that great a player, and they’ve played for years so inviting them would have just set me up for misery.

    All of this could have been avoided if Mr. Wonderful had just bought me a dozen roses and jumped my bones in the condo. Just sayin’.