Mama was a stickler for proper comportment. Basic skills were learned at home. One skill? How to open and close a door. Properly. Bursting through a door or slamming one resulted in having to open and close it fifty times in a row. And don’t think to cheat. You had to count out loud with each open and closure. Only took a couple of times of enduring the endless repetition for it to become muscle memory. Other skills? To enter and exit a room properly, how to make introductions, phone etiquette . . . and how to seat yourself gracefully. I was also taught to be gracious when someone’s social behavior was less than polite in public.
But even Mama would have been pushed to the limit last week.
Hubby and I, out and about and hungry, decided on a Chinese buffet. Inside, we were escorted to the wall lined with a series of booths, my preference with my bad leg. The booths were separated by a partition that served double-duty as both units’ padded back rest. We perused the buffet, filled our dishes and sat down to eat. I didn’t pay much attention when guests were led to the booth behind me. I was anticipating that first taste of Hot and Sour soup I’d spooned up, when one of the individuals threw herself into their booth. Literally. Hard enough for the partition to slap me in the back. Now, I won’t go so far as to say she broke it loose from its moorings, but it wouldn’t be far from the realm of possibility. Impact jolted my elbow hard enough to toss the spoonful of soup at hubby. It missed him, but my back rest lost about five of my share of the ninety degrees allowed to form my seat. Tipped me forward a bit, but things were still tolerable. We continued to eat.
Well, hubby continued to eat. He wasn’t being rocked by the individual who shoved herself back to get out of the booth to return to the buffet. Lost another three degrees with that exit. When she returned, it felt as if she ‘attacked’ her seat like it was a buddy in a mosh pit. Back rest slapped me once again. Lost more ground. Over and over again she exited and re-entered, until I had a pretty good idea of what it felt like to be the castle door on the receiving end of a medieval assault. A door that was steadily losing ground, because the partition was giving up the ghost and folding toward the table. It got to the point I was smashed so far forward my face was hovering over my plate. While she relaxed like she was in an Easyboy recliner, I had to brace my soles on the edge of hubby’s seat to save myself from being drowned in my own soup.
Expression nervous, hubby eyed her returning from yet another trip to the buffet. “Sorry, honey,” he apologized. Sheepish, but quick to grab the ankle of the foot I’d planted on the seat edge between his knees, he moved it to the outside of his leg. “If she jars you loose and your heel goes north instead of south, well . . .” He finished in a rush, “It’d wreck your playground for a week!” I braced myself with my hands as well, and still ended up with my ribs scraping the table edge.
I finally had enough. Using arms and legs I shoved back, trying to straighten up. Her reaction? She simply readjusted her seat to the previous comfortable reclining position. Hubby suggested I move beside him, but this had become a matter of principle. I refused to give more ground.
Stubbornness meant I spent more time bracing for impact than eating. Hubby split his time between laughing at my less than adult reaction and intoning “Incoming!” under his breath. Got caught off guard once or twice and took a couple direct hits. A steamed dumpling went MIA when it bounced across the table. I opened my mouth to take a bite of egg roll when the seat smacked me in the back of the head and I engulfed the entire thing. Hubby waggling his brows and growling a suggestive “Ooooh, ba-by!” didn’t improve my mood. I glared, eyes watering while I coughed egg roll wrapper crumbs.
But I won. I stuck it out without moving. She finally left and I crawled out from under my newly formed lean-to. I switched to hubby’s side of the table so the little oriental waitress could wrestle the partition back upright. She even brought us extra fortune cookies. And I don’t care how funny people may look at me. From now on, before I sit down I’m shaking the partition to make sure it’s secure. On second thought, I’ll wait for the booth on the very end.