The big mall? My younger daughter wanted Italian food. Fine, let’s go over to that mall, where it is especially hard to find a place to park. My wife was driving. I counselled against the garage where my younger daughter and I’d explored fruitlessly for a place not too many days ago. The Mrs. spied a spot on the opposite side of the street and did a U-turn and soon had us parked, across the street from the entrance.
On the way in I smelled grilled beef. I haven’t had meat in two months. I suddenly wanted grilled beef. I haven’t had any wine in about as long and suddenly the perfect evening in my mind’s eye involved a bottle of red wine and a large steak. It did not involve the bowl of pasta and soda water I was otherwise heading off to have just now. We walked passed other restaurants. Warm, inside on a cold night, these places seemed to be the right places where everyone was drinking and having the right sort of evening. And I knew I wasn’t going to change my plan. Not tonight anyway. But I had to remind myself, surely.
We waited for a table at the place where the owner is a friend. Sitting down, I thought of Trotsky whom I’ve been reading about all day. A sharp pricking sound began playing at my temples. I looked once. I looked twice. At the table behind me a middle-aged couple were talking. Junior was watching a phone propped up as a TV. Junior did not have head phones. Junior was watching this as if he were in the living room. Great for the folks. Sucks for me. I looked again. I turned to the family and suggested we move. No one liked this idea. This shrill little sound was going to drive me bird-shit.
My wife will get up and leave a restaurant if there is glaring neon lighting. Neon doesn’t bother me. But I understand. But if there is wretched music. If there are wretched sounds. If someone thinks it is high-tone to blast a television, to accompany your dining experience. If someone decides to let a loud device baby sit their child within earshot . . . I just can’t take it. I want to leave, or move or say something polite suggesting they turn it off or say something rude, suggesting it really needs to be shut down now.
My younger daughter and wife had zero patience for me. “Wipe that look off your face. We’re in a public place.” I tried to imagine just what this look my wife was referring to resembled. The waitress had nowhere to move us. Was everyone else oblivious to that tinny, wretched whine? Ahhhhh. I switched seats with my little one, introducing another yard or so between me and the source of annoyance. The couple looked innocent enough. They weren’t doing anything untoward by Chinese standards. We were in China. Nothing abnormal here. Relax. Relax. By the time the salad arrived the family had their device packed away and Junior bundled up and they’d left off into the night allowing the rest of the restaurant din to fill out, evenly.