The smokers blocked the passageway to the Alehouse from the parking lot; bitterly adjusting to the new laws that ban indoor smoking. We entered through the crowded door.
The wait for a table, away from the loud music, was ten minutes. The three of us stood there, tired and sweaty after a long night's work in the breezeless heat, until they showed us to our table.
Ted and Fred looked worn out. I'm sure I did, too. It was well past midnight and we'd been out there since 5 PM. It's a little Saturday night gig I have every weekend to bring in some extra pocket money. But it's hard work and it takes its toll. Don't know how much longer this old body can do it.
We got a booth next to the restrooms. At least it was quiet.
After we ordered a pitcher of beer and some food, we took turns going to the head to wash up a little.
We observed the tables around us. Unusual people, as it turned out.
Across from our table, a couple sat facing each other. They were large people, in their late forties, I would guess. He sported a bald head and a sparkling earring; wearing a tight black muscle shirt to show off his chest and biceps - obviously a gym rat; an odd profile, to say the least, the kind of face I've always imagined on Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's assistant; he was pale as snow and he had a morose look about him. After they ordered, he slid over to her side.
She was a sight to behold. Blonde, with extensions down to her waist; the bulk of Schwarzenegger and the face of Stallone, with black spandex wrapped around her like cellophane; more makeup than Tammy Faye Bakker. Not the kind of girl you want to meet in a dark alley...
The whole time we were there, I barely saw them speak and I never saw them smile. Strange people, by my reckoning.
Our pitcher arrived and the waiter filled our three frosty mugs. We mumbled an unenthusiastic toast to the end of the day and took a drink. Then Fred spotted red lipstick on his mug; bright and clear.
We called the waiter back and displayed the mug. "Sorry, I pulled it out of the clean rack...I don't know how it could've happened...I'll get you another one," he stammered, and ran off to fetch a clean one.
The other table across from ours had another interesting combination of characters. A lovely young lady - slim, shapely, pretty and with long hair - sat with two gentlemen. She couldn't have been too far past twenty, if that. We noticed her extensively when she went to visit the ladies room, and strutted past our lustful eyes.
Upon her return, when she sat down, we noticed the company she kept. They were two men in their forties. Both looked very frail and geekish, but they had an odd confidence about them. One had a curly moptop for a head, and he looked slightly retarded; he seemed to emit a low volume Beavis & Butthead laughter every so often. The other one, who had summarily corralled the girl in the sitting space reserved for one person, was a skinny little guy; he wore glasses and held a laurel crown of hair on his head. He had a devious, almost perverse manner about him. He put his face up close to her ear each time he spoke. One could only wonder what they were up to.
Our waiter returned with a clean, empty mug, and proceeded to pour some beer into it out of our pitcher. I said: "Great, thanks. But you owe us another beer." The guy looked at me dumbstruck, like he'd never heard anything so absurd in his life. He looked at the dirty mug, which was still on the table for our viewing pleasure, and said: "Well, this is a half beer. I'll show it to my manager and see if he wants to comp you guys a beer, but I tell you right now, he's going to say this is a half beer." Apparently the sip we took from the dirty mug was bought and paid for, and it accounted for a whole half beer even though the beer level was barely an inch or so from the top of the mug. For a second there, I thought he was going to pour out the dirty mug into the pitcher, so we could have our damn beer back.
Well, he took off in search of the manager while we stared at each other in disbelief. Already we were picturing the guy spitting into our food. I wasn't upset about the cost of the beer, but it seemed ridiculous to me that we didn't get refunded for, what amounted to, damaged beer. This guy was either new at this or he was an idiot.
Of course, the manager just had him bring us a fresh beer. The food was delicious, and hopefully unspat upon. We tipped the guy well, as is our custom. Then we walked out, said our good-byes and went our merry ways.
On my drive home I thought about the people I'd seen, and how odd they'd seemed. I marveled at their strangeness. Then it dawned on me. Perhaps I'm the strange one; I'm the one who doesn't quite fit in. Maybe the things I see as unusual aren't quite as irregular as those I see as normal. Hell, it's not like I get out much anyway. What do I know what's going on in the world? I don't even watch TV that much. I wonder if those people there were looking at us and amusing themselves at our expense; fabricating stories about our occupations, sexual orientations or things of the like.
One thing I am sure of: the world out there is not the same one I knew growing up. Things have changed; people have changed.
As unconcerned about what people may think as I've always been, I can't help but wonder what they think of me now.