LEARNING WHILE WE CAN

The other evening, six of us met at a local hostelry for a pleasant early dinner with raillery and worry.  Nothing was forbidden in terms of topics, nor in terms of menu.

After varying periods of dieting (we’re Lenten, after all), our orders were huge and succulent: gigantic hamburgers (Cheese? Bacon?  French fries or home-made chips?) and tacos, filled with fish (cod) or shrimp.

Drinks time.   Red wines, vodka, and for us, Scotch.   With a proviso.  We asked for bar Scotch, the cheap stuff, insofar as we were cutting it with half a glass of water.  Why waste a wonderful sensation?

Time sped.   We heard about forthcoming travel, past holidays, the Oscar mix-up, the confusion and failure of one of our local schools.  We dipped, but carefully, into the Washington swamp.

The bill was presented.   $252.  Someone handed us the tally which was large enough for us to examine it carefully.

We checked off ordered items.  Then we noticed that our bar Scotch was billed as “Dewar’s,” $12 each.

Now, we had five witnesses to our ordering bar Scotch.  We wondered what we should do.

The restaurant was a favorite, its failures rare.   Rather than throwing three credit cards into the center of the table, we were dealing that evening in cash.  We loved our waitress.   Service had been grand.  But twelve bucks a shot for Old Rotgut?

We live well-insulated.   We could just forget the error, swallow the overage, say nothing.   We certainly didn’t want to get into a hassle.  Or embarrass our waitress who may have been held captive by the barman.  We didn’t want to appear stingy.   “You had the burger, but I had egg salad and water.”

In the end, good manners and silence carried the night.

And then we began to think about the Women’s March in Washington.   Would those revved up, determined, strong, “righteous” ladies have let this go?

When all we read about in our newspapers or online is creeping corruption and deal-making, the screwing of the American public out of time-honored customs and habits created to make life better for all levels of society – without any kind of popular mandate to excuse wretched excess and bad behavior – how could we ignore this homegrown example of profiteering?

We agreed the women marching would never have let this go by the boards, swallowed the insult to our intelligence, paid through the nose for what had not been ordered.  No, sir!

Were we too in love with what we wanted to believe about those women?  Were they carrying the weight for us all?   Should they?

Gathered at our cars in the ice-cold parking lot, we debated.  We’d been had.  We felt foolish.  We felt insignificant.  We were angry.

Each car exited onto the highway silently, carrying abashed passengers too “politically correct” to have made a scene.  This was our town.  Our eatery.  Our “friends” taking advantage.   Could we promise never again to be weak-kneed, run over, mauled?

Did we?

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