Screams from an Italian Restaurant

As soon as the patron at the table adjacent to ours opened her mouth, I knew dinner was ruined.

“It’s so good to see you,”she said.

Sure, reading those six words might not tag them as the kind to destroy a pleasant meal out during an equally pleasant vacation in central Florida, center of the tourism universe. After all, she wasn’t describing an episode of one of those surgery-gone-wrong shows or something horrible she discovered in a public restroom. But she squealed the greeting at the top of her lungs, as if her approaching friend were nearly but not quiet totally deaf, and she was trying to finish the job. Her friend probably offered some greeting in return, but I couldn’t be sure because she said it at a normal volume, and it just kind of blended in with the rest of the din of the busy restaurant.

But the speaker — and I’ll just call her The Lady Loudmouth of Castle Noisenstein, or LLCN, from here on out — was having none of that. No, her words were important, the stories they held too great to meld with the masses. She would be heard.

“How have you been? What was the traffic like? Was the traffic bad? The traffic on I-4 can get so crazy? Was it so crazy? It’s crazy! How have you been? I’ve been great! Happy birthday! Oh my God, it’s so good to see you! Happy birthday! I got you this present! I haven’t seen you in, like, forever! No. No. No. I wanted you to have it. I wanted to. I wanted to! How have you been? Things have been crazy for me. So crazy. Blah blah blah, me me me, yell yell yell, gabbidy gabbidy gabbidy, yammer yammer yammerdy do.”

I may have sort of made up that last part, but it pretty much sounded exactly like that.

If Mandy and I weren’t such social weirdos, I suppose we could have asked our waiter for a change of tables. But the place was packed, and making a fuss about where we were seated to a friendly waiter who was clearly working hard just isn’t our style. Sitting and stewing: That’s more our bag.

The table was to my back, so I couldn’t see the speaker’s face. I could, however, see my wife’s. Mandy’s eyes grew wide with a combination of amazement and fear. We’ve been married long enough (ten years this week; you can give me a high five in spirit), so I’ve learned to sort of read her mind:

“Adam is so awesome,” I’m almost positive she was thinking. “There are not enough good deeds in the heart of man to accumulate the amount of karma needed to match someone as glorious as he with anyone in the history of time, let alone me. Also, why is this woman talking so loudly? I can barely hear myself think about how great Adam is.”

The arrival of the food didn’t dam the river. Either through birth or training, LLCN had mastered the dexterous trick of shoveling food down her gullet in the nanoseconds between words.

If her friend was involved in their conversation at all, I couldn’t tell. Unless she was able to manipulate time and space and somehow slip her words between the LLCN’s, I don’t think she possibly could have been. The LLCN was clearly a rare breed of human who had mastered the ability to inhale as she spoke, negating the need to ever pause. Which, I suppose, is a useful skill for one who has not a single moment in her life too mundane to skip detailing at length. Mandy and I were treated to what seemed like the LLCN’s entire history, from birth to sitting down at the restaurant. (No, seriously; she told her friend she thought our friendly waiter was a weirdo because, when she told him she was meeting someone, he had the gall to sit in her in the back where they could enjoy their conversation with a bit more privacy. How rude.) She told of family struggles and life in the city and the layout of her apartment and what she had for breakfast and about how traffic is awful and, most prominently, about how she was superior to every person with whom she ever worked or quite possibly in the world:

”They’re all a bunch of robots. Absolute robots,” she yelled in her poor friend’s face, speaking of her coworkers at the real estate office that afforded her the means to be yelling at her friend’s face inside a Mellow Mushroom. “They’re just going through the motions. They don’t ever think for themselves. I’m the only one up there who thinks for herself. I’m the smartest person there. And I told them if I didn’t get my way, I was just going to leave because I’m a big baby who has to get her way and I’m going to let everybody know it because I’m the most important person in this restaurant, and hey that guy at the next table’s head just exploded. Gross. Now, back to me…”

The longer we sat there, inadvertently eavesdropping on this conversation, the more the two of us came to realize we were becoming incapable of doing anything but. Our own thoughts were bullied away, leaving us horsing down our food in joyless silence.

When waiter dropped by to ask if everything was good (I guess: To be honest, although I could see his lips moving, I had no idea what he was saying), we asked for the check and a carryout box. The poor guy seemed confused as to why we were leaving with most of our food in hand instead of in stomach. I would have explained, but don’t think he would have caught a word of it.


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