Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Betrayal. Blackmail. Extortion: A test of survival skills

My friend Dan is the kind of guy who has a sign only visible to lunatics, maniacs, and aliens which I surmise must read something like, "Say anything to me and I will understand." People approach him and interact with him in unusual ways. I might even say batty, daffy, and bizarre. He accepts everyone and strangers feel comfortable letting it all hang out around him. It is uncanny.

I have long admired Dan for his big-hearted goodness. This universal understanding of every brand of winner and loon is not in my personality profile. I have watched him and tried, as he does, to respond to every remark with generosity and with a diffusing yet still careful sense of humor. But if someone said they wanted to take me home, wrap me in a blanket, and feed me legumes, I would not know the noble road. I would not have the joke. But Dan. Had he been at dinner...

At an old but upscale sea-side shack at the beach, a man sat down at the table behind us. I noticed him because he looked a bit harried. Also, his hair was dyed a dark color unnatural even for his dark complexion. Men who dye their hair are concerning. I observed these things in the way a person does who would forget them as fast as they noted them and never think of them again. However, he was not through with his first impression.

It wasn't long before the man turned around to our table and interrupted our conversation forcefully and with a thick but discernible accent, demanded of anyone who would answer, "How do you spell 'betrayed'?" I was stunned for a moment. Imagine all the questions a gentleman turning to another table in a restaurant might ask. If there is a list somewhere, how to spell something must be Number 38,000. And how to spell that word in particular, must be 62,000.

Someone at the table piped up, spelled it, and all of us, eyes quizzically moving from one person to the next for their expression, returned to our meal.

It was not long before the man behind us was having a conversation with his server. It became apparent he was asking her to define betrayal for her. Moving on, they landed on a new word he might be describing, "Oh," she said cheerfully, "You mean like blackmail. Okay, yeah, I'll spell it for you."

So when the same man turned back to our table again, I said more loudly than I should have maybe, "If your next question is how to spell 'AK-47' then you can turn back around."

I am eating lobster on a summer day with a table of people I adore. Would you? Could you? Keep your crazy to yourself? And BTW, asking for help with extortion via text message, even if you are heartbroken, is a pretty big leap of faith even if Dan is sitting behind you. What should I say? "Move over, you are not spelling that correctly. I'll do it. 'Betrayed' and 'Or else' should be followed by exclamation points or no one will take you seriously."

Look, it's like this. If you need to blackmail someone, chances are the signs you were on a weedy and inadvisable path were a-ways back and the situation is now singular enough to transcend spelling. This is so far past small talk. There is little an adept hostess can do to be helpful. Well, there is always one thing. Why not have a very stiff drink while we wait for the SWAT team?

1 cocktail, in a tall old fashioned glass

2 teaspoons granulated sugar
4 lime wedges
2 1/2 oz cachaca

Muddle the sugar into the lime wedges in an old-fashioned glass.
Fill the glass with ice cubes. Pour the cachaca into the glass. Stir well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think I know that guy. Dina, new reader