Dinner and Dancing: An Evening to Remember
By Merry Cotton
A while back, Bill, he’s my husband, and I were having an unplanned restaurant dinner – the kind one has when “the cook” in the family has no inspiration, divine or otherwise, as to what to prepare at home. So we went to a Tiki-style restaurant here in the south – decorated with all the sensory delights of a ceiling in thatched–grass, hurricane lamps with lighted candles, faux bamboo furniture and a touristy atmosphere. But, desperate not to cook on this very warm evening and finding a restaurant without a waiting list longer than the menu, we decided this quiet little restaurant was the place.
It was a quiet place until an older couple, that is to say, someone older than we are, was seated at a table next to us – when I say next to us – the edges of our tables seemed to be less than a foot or so apart and even closer when the action began.
But first, I must say the husband of the couple wore a T-shirt that foreshadowed the event soon to take place. He had a picture of a Dalmatian’s head – as in a spotted dog usually associated with riding on fire trucks – wearing a fireman’s hat on its black and white head and the entire picture circled with the words Volunteer Fireman of the Year. The T-shirt appeared to be newly silk-screened with its emblem to warn of the evening’s event. To complete this man’s appearance, he had rested his eyeglasses on the tip of his nose, and he sported a new pair of white tennis shoes.
In minutes I decided he was not the kind of husband or companion I’d like. We overheard him telling his wife what she could order from the menu. She seemed to acquiesce to his directive and then he snapped his fingers to get the waitress’ attention and proceeded to order for the both of them. The wife then murmured something to him that appeared to be about going to the ladies’ room and excused herself. His only response was pushing his glasses onto his forehead. He never looked up or acknowledged her comment whatever it was.
He was much too busy opening his road map that when fully open, the edge of it rested close to the edge of our table. With a final noisy jerking of the map to flatten it, he began studiously examining whatever was at the bottom of the map and peered closely at it because his glasses were still perched on his head. He was totally, absolutely totally, oblivious to the fact that the top portion of the map was now resting on the hurricane lamp just above the candle’s flame. Unnoticed by this man, the map quickly began to smolder – it turned brown; it curled; it began to burn.
Attempting to be casual but in a high-pitched, panicky voice, I recall squeaking out, “Excuse me, Sir, but your map is on fire!” He didn’t even look up…in fact; he appeared to be a master of not listening. In a second, the entire map burst into flames. That got his attention.
He threw it on the floor, and being the “Volunteer Fireman of the Year” – that’s what his T-shirt said – immediately sprang into action and began stomping out the blaze with his gleaming white tennis shoes. He twisted, he gyrated, he turned and stomped – first with just one foot, then as the fire intensified, with both feet. The only things missing were the click of castanets and shouts of ole’.
But the flames continued to lick up around the soles of his new white tennis shoes, and the sparks flew upward to the thatched-grass ceiling of the Tiki-style restaurant.
In one desperate grandiose jump, he completed his flamenco-like dance with his glasses falling from his forehead onto the floor with one of his feet shattering the lenses of his glasses…terrifying would only describe the situation.
Finally, to add to the chaos, but appropriately so, an employee grabbed a fire extinguisher and foamed the floor and his new white tennis shoes with lots of bubbles. Dripping with sweat and ashen-faced (no pun intended), his embarrassment and humiliation were obvious as he stood in the midst of white foam and on the burned carpet with just a wisp or two of smoke curling from under his not-so-new-looking white tennis shoes. Another shot or two of foam took care of the wisps.
By then, the restaurant was in chaos. Eventually, everyone got past what might have been a horrible disaster. The calm and composed waitress stepped around the remains of the carpet, came to our table, and asked if Bill and I wanted dessert – but we decided we’d rather just have our check – we weren’t taking any chances – dessert might have been something flambé.
We headed for our car and just sat while we attempted to recover from the shock of the near catastrophic event. Finally, with time we have found humor and laughed – but only at the “dance scene.”
While we skipped our dessert, the map-reader at the next table surely got his – but his may have been just desserts.
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