On some Fridays, after he gets off work, David likes me to meet him at the Hyatt martini bar on Scotts Road, where martinis are half-price every weekday until seven o’clock. We like Grey Goose. Also, they serve peppered cashews, which are yummy.
Friday is their busiest evening and David likes me to get there before he does to get seats. This is the plan today. I change from my shorts to a skirt, comb my hair, and make the walk up the hill, down the other side, and across the elevated walkway. But when I get to the bar all the seats are being saved. There are several seating areas, each comprised of chair-and-couch arrangements, cozy pods for convivial drinking. But today all the seats are draped with pashminas and sweaters, stacked with purses and packages; one chair even holds a pair of shoes—and huddled in the dim corner of that pod, a thin bare-footed woman gazes at me with guilty eyes, ordered by someone from work, or by the man she’s in a relationship with, to get here early and hold places—exactly, come to think of it, as the man I’m in a relationship with expects me to do.
On the lower level, by the window, a table and two chairs come free. I head that way, but before I reach it, another woman slides in, drapes a shawl over the remaining chair. A waitress approaches and asks how she can help.
“There’s no place to sit,” I tell her, feeling conspicuous, the only person standing in the whole place, unoccupied chairs all around. She scans the area, then motions toward the empty stool right behind me at the bar. The man who’s sitting beside the vacant stool sees me reach for it, pulls it close, and drapes his arm across the back of it. “It’s being saved,” I say, my voice strident, whiny with disappointment and indignation. All these chairs, held for people who aren’t here. It’s not polite. It’s not reasonable. There should be a rule.
The man who’s saving the chair turns and addresses me—“Here, you. I don’t like the way you’re talking to this girl, like you think you’re better than her.” Australian, buzz cut, blunt features.
“No,” I say. “I don’t think I’m better. I’d just like a place to sit.”
“You’re a snob, sailing in here like royalty, making demands, talking down to the poor waitress.” His face is flushed with belligerence, and his tongue is thick and slow.
I’m hurt and humiliated in front of the several people looking on. Do I deserve his censure? I can be shrill when I’m impatient and frustrated, but I’m not mean-spirited, not ever. I hate it when people think I’m less than what I am. David enters the bar. We order our martinis and drink them standing. I tell him we’ll need to find a new martini bar.
Two weeks later I’m out walking my dog, Trip, and I see the man who called me a snob. He approaches, his expression one of benign inquiry, no recognition whatsoever. “Do you know where The Ardmore is?” he asks. “Sure,” I tell him, pointing to the cluster of tall buildings up the way. “That group of high rises, up the street and across.” He says thanks and heads off in that direction.