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Speaking of Table Manners

I think there are some things one is not meant to see and/or hear (or perhaps blog about?).

I was in The Box yesterday, having a leisurely lunch and apparently not minding my own business. When I go there in the afternoon(which I often do if I've got a decent break between classes) I sometimes read, I sometimes write, and I sometimes just peoplewatch, listening for snippets of dialogue or situations to toss into some kind of storytelling stewpot.

It's not eavesdropping, it's character research. Don't judge. Any writing book will back me up on this.

Anyway, prior to nail-polish girl, there was a family of four sitting at the same table corner table, which was only a couple feet away from mine. At first I thought it was two lesbians and their kids (a boy and a girl, aged about 9 and 7), which wasn't much of a stretch given that The Box is pretty much a gay bar/cafe and the women looked more than granola-ish. Turns out mom was with her mom (who had gray spikey hair and fabulous dangly hippy earrings) and they were from Laguna Beach.

They first caught my attention when the boy started coughing. It was one of those choking coughs that you dread hearing when you've worked in restaurants. A Heimlich during the lunch rush is never a good thing.

I looked up and the kid seemed to have recovered quickly. His face hung over the table, parallel to his plate of a half-eaten burger and chips. A sliver of drool hung out of his mouth, reaching down towards a pool of ketchup.

His mom looked at him, more disgusted than worried.

"What?" he said, a little out of breath. "I was choking." His face was flushed, his eyes were watering, and he looked more than a little embarrassed.

His mom starting to laugh. I don't know why she found it so funny, but the fact she was laughing at his gagging and subsequent spittle upset him even more. He looked around. I averted my glance. He started to cry. Ah yes, I remember that old formula of pre-adolescent emotions: embarassment + ridicule = tears (which of course leads to more embarrassment).

Poor over-sensitive kid, and then his mom brings him to a gay bar for lunch. Bless, I thought, and scribbled a vague memory of being teased at a school cafeteria lunchtable into my jounal.

He recovered quickly (atta boy), and started eating the candy-covered cupcake they must have picked up from the bakery next door.

I went back to my note-taking and picked at my salad.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the mom make the wide-eyed, oh-shit-I-just-remembered-something face. You know the one ... when the light bulb goes off and you've just twigged, realizing you left the tap running in the bathtub, or that it's your day to meet with the court-appointed custodian while picking up the kids from soccer practice, or that you forgot to set your Sky+ (TiVo) to record the season finale of Lost and it's coming on in ten minutes.

"I've got to change my ..." she said out loud, at one of those rare moments when the rest of the dining room had suddenly gone silent.

She looked straight across the table to the lesbian-coiffed grandma and mouthed something.

Who knew that "I've got my period" was so easy to lip read? I sort of felt like I'd invaded her privacy, but then again ... why wouldn't she have just excused herself and said she had to go to the loo?

Of course, I was hooked into the scene by now, and as she reached down for her purse she said, out loud, "I forgot to do it this morning." And then she headed downstairs to the ladies.

And my writerly mind thinks, okay, she's grabbing her purse because she needs a tampon and she's telling her mom that she forgot to change it this morning.

Is this something that actually slips one's mind? And if it is, is it something you tell people you've forgotten or is it one of those little secrets you keep to yourself?

I think I might have visibly shuddered.

All right. Fine. Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm becoming an old Gladys Kravitz fussbudget. Maybe I need to start paying less attention to other people and worry about my own manners (which clearly are impeccable) and possible hangups about bodily functions and personal hygiene. Maybe I need to re-read my copies of those enlightening children's classics Madeline Gets a Meal and a Manicure and Everybody's Mom Menstruates.

Or maybe people need to remember they're in public and there are certain things that one doesn't do or talk about at a public luncheon table.

And then I finished my salad, closed my journal, and proceeded to floss while I waited for the bill.