SECTION SIX

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COLUMN SEVENTY-THREE, JULY 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz)

SELF-ABSORBED AMERICA:
THE COUPLE

John Vincent and Evelyn Finecraft, a couple very dignified and properly dressed, made their tortured approach through a crowd of people near the hostess at the doorway.  The hostess, seeming somewhat bemused and distracted, took the names of what appeared to be two not so very uncommon faces unionized in a somewhat typical fashion.

"I should have never worn these shoes," the woman said looking down at her feet.

Checking his watch, the man appealed in a somewhat sympathetic tone, "Finecraft."

"About twenty-five minutes," the hostess replied.

"Oh dear, must we always wait," the woman whispered as they turned to take a seat amongst a frenetic gang of people who sat amiably and palpably waiting beneath the moon of a crisp autumn night. 

Not everyone knows how to wait with good measure.  Some, it seems, are only committed to wait with desperate interest in what they're waiting for.  The man looked at his watch.  Only two minutes had passed. 

"Oh, I should have never worn these shoes.  The loafers are ever more comfortable," declared the woman. 

It was already ten minutes passed eight o?clock, and the restaurant was just turning its second wave of customers.  A steady buzz of undecipherable chatter was making its way outdoors.  For the moment, the couple sat content while playing off their agitation.  It may have been conceivable that the mindless murmuring was beginning to play upon the solemn man's nerves, but he seemed to conceal this by again looking to his watch, this time with a quiet note of stern sobriety. 

'the service looks terrible tonight," the man said looking through the window with an eye like that of a disturbed burglar waiting for a house to be vacated. 

The woman sat staring dumbly at her shoes, wiggling her toes every so often and followed by a sigh of interminable vexation.  Her hair was very perfectly made up into a tight golden ball of yarn.  She wore a broach pin on her pink lapel, and her makeup was just so evenly distributed across her face with the lightest of textures. 

"It should be any minute, now," whispered the man as he folded his legs sitting quite conservatively next to the woman and delicately positioned so as not to disturb her as if she were a fragile piece of tissue paper.  His body language expressed a rather peculiar subservience to her. He kept a modestly trimmed moustache that seemed to match perfectly well with his graying hair and pressed navy jacket meticulously combed free of lint. 

"I?m not sure," began the man, "but I think I may have read somewhere today, er maybe it was yesterday, that we have made considerable strides in the war."

"Oh, well the President is doing a fine job."

"Fine, indeed," muttered the man.  He checked his watch again.  "It has been twenty-eight minutes.  Yes, it looks like the service is going to be terrible tonight." 

Approaching was the lean, tall hostess with a countenance contemplating speech.

"Mr. Finecraft, your table is ready."

Concealing a contorted smirk, the man boldly arose grabbing his wife by the hand, and stood waiting to be led to their table.  Draping his hand against his tie, the man prepared himself for the short walk.  Two peacocks couldn't have arrived in any better fashion.  Feeling somewhat pleased, the man


The couple pictured
themselves as a
splendid spectacle


shot a smile across to the woman as she delicately jostled her hand for the menu once they were seated.  They were, for the moment, content. 

The woman was wearing a fine array of gold and silver jewelry.  Her fingers flinched to show it off.  Her eyes shot darts gazing at each and every fellow diner's display.  At the moment, they pictured themselves as a splendid spectacle in that fine moment of late evening.  They were putting on airs.  The latticed earrings dangled from the woman's lobes with a subtlety that was to be admired.  They swam in their own ineffable being.   Wrinkling her fine powdered chin, the woman forced a smile toward her husband. 

"I think I may try a bit of the salmon, tonight," she said, followed by a charming, yet discreet clearing of her throat. 

'that sounds good, dear?

The man perused his menu.  Not very far off, a short, stocky manager with black beady eyes and a well-trimmed goatee was overheard to be quietly encouraging a young, thin waiter (obviously new to the workings of the establishment) about the inner secrets of the fast-paced service industry.

'turn "em and burn "em," he was overheard to have been saying.  'turn "em and burn "em," and he gave the boy an amiable slap of encouragement with a rolled fist into the biceps. 

"I think it was yesterday," the man said raising his eyebrows.

"What's that dear??

'the article I was reading.  Yes, I?m pretty sure it was yesterday."

"Oh, you know how I hate hearing about politics at the dinner table," the woman frowned.

 "Yes, I know dear? but there was something to it.  There was definitely something to it."

"Well, you don't see anyone else around us discussing politics during dinner.  I just don't think that one should concern oneself with the world of politics over dinner.  Oh, I hope the salmon is better than last time."

"Oh, where did that waiter go," the man said puffing out his cheeks as they began to grow red with irritation.  "I could really use a glass of water, and still our waiter is off hee-hawing it with that table in the back." 

"Do you know what you are having??

"Uh, oh " yes, I think I do.  I think I am going to give the porterhouse another try," the man said somewhat reluctantly.

Raising her eyebrows, the woman shot a look between them.

"Yes, I know?but??

"You know that you said you were never ordering that here again," the woman whispered in a voice that almost smacked across the man's inflamed, pink cheek. 

"Yes, I know?oh, good? here he comes."

Fidgeting between pockets, and noticeably nervous, the young, tall waiter new to the game walked up posturing his best pose with eyebrows alert and his back arched just delicately enough so as not to impose a too menacing shadow over the couple.  With his best foot forward, he sputtered a few melancholy phrases and bent an ear overhead. 

"Very good, ma'am!  Yes, I'm quite sure we can do that for you."  And.  "Yes, sir.  Absolutely sir.  Yes, I?ll make sure that it is not overcooked this time.  Thank you, very much.  I?ll have that right out to you."

Quietly, the meek waiter takes a step back, loses something in his pockets and tentatively disappears.

"Yes, it was definitely yesterday," the man resumes to his wife's blank stare.  "It was definitely yesterday, cause I was sitting in the study and the television was on."

"Oh, well the President is doing a fine job."

"Fine, Indeed.  But, what really bothered me was the fact that two hundred people had come out protesting the United States!" the man said. He was piqued.

"I hope they don't give me a piece loaded with bones this time," the woman said distractedly.

"Yes, two hundred?but I forget what country it was. Anyway, they were protesting American policy, they became frenzied " zealots!  You should have seen them."

To which the woman calmly replied, "listen dear, those people do not want our help, and to tell you the truth?I think they love living the way they do.  I think they are out to spite us."

"Well, I am no politician," the man confessed, "and I won't pretend to understand the complexities of our governmental policies??

Just as the man was about to reach the climax of his speech, he was undercut by the deliverance of two plates presented rather delicately, yet with shaky hands by the lean, tall waiter nervously overshadowing them. 

"Oh, that looks delicious," the man said, his eyes like lightening and generating a zeal from the depths of his gut---a gut that was as


The center of the steak was pink, too rare for the man, who put his foot down


unpredictable as the storms off the Cape of South America. The lightening soon turned to storm clouds, and soon a frantic explosion resulted from his sudden change in mood. 

'this shall not do, and I shall not tolerate to eat this," the man said pulling his knife out of the pink center of lean meat.  "I am putting my foot down this time, and I will not be satisfied until you can properly cook a steak that has been cooked to my intended specifications." 

Swimming in the powers of his will, the man handed the waiter his plate crossing his arms and feeling somewhat pleased with his act. 

"And this too," the woman added, wrinkling her chin as the waiter began a hasty retreat.  "I am afraid to take a chance on a piece so laden with bones."

The woman handed him her second plate and the waiter walked away with the best of intentions, as the couple sat content in their boredom and silence. 

When the waiter finally built up the courage to return with two new plates, the couple sat smiling and quietly victorious in what they had accomplished.  The man gave the waiter a solemn nod of approval as the waiter walked away. Obviously, the man was quite pleased with the plate that had been delivered to him. The man looked a the steak and raised both eyebrows in surprised anticipation of eating it. 

"How is it?? the man nodded to his wife.

"Very good, dear.  Very good."

And they fell to devouring, filled their bellies, and pushed back their plates remaining in a sullen stupor until it came time to pay the bill.  And the lean, tall waiter came hobbling over, a bit more confident, and pleaded for forgiveness and ratted on the chef, saying he was new.  And the couple accepted the apology, and contended that it had been all right, and that the meal had all turned out accordingly anyhow.  And the man left a generous tip on top of the tab, and the woman fidgeted with her toes, and the man stood up draping his hand down his tie.   And both man and woman left, feeling somewhat pleased with the night, turning to walk out together and feel the effects of the cool night air, and notice the brightness of the moon.  And they left smiling " walking out hand in hand, purged of their irritability, somewhat absorbed, and felt content. 

In the wastebasket next to the door lay a crumpled up newspaper, the contents of a small article in a narrow column detailing the plight of a thousand inhabitants without fresh water and plans to build a pipeline " an oil pipeline.

"I just can't understand," the man said holding the door open for his wife, "why they hate us so goddamn much."

"Yes, the loafers would have been much more comfortable," the woman calmly retorted.  ##

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