It’s about 7.30 when I come out of X hotel, turn round the corner, cross the road and go to the taxi rank at the bottom of the street. On the way I pass a restaurant where I once had dinner, also on my way from X hotel. Establishing a bit of a tradition is always nice, besides, I’m tired and hungry, so I open the restaurant door.
The waiter who takes me to the table smiles and says it’s great to see me again. Well, it’s one good waiter because I can’t recall seeing him here last time. He leaves me with the menu; I get my diary out of my handbag and look up the previous date at X hotel. About 40 days since I was here first time. Yes, a good waiter indeed. I then place my order, he smiles again and says:
– The same as last time, eh?
– Do you remember all your customers so well?
– No, not all of them, – he winks at me, turns round and goes to the bar, leaving me sitting motionlessly at the table, looking intently at the pattern on the table cloth. His wink reminded me of what happened here last time – which I totally forgot about. Men only have 2 faults: all they say and all they do. About 40 days ago…
…I entered that restaurant for the first time. I sat down, studied the menu, ordered something which the waiter remembers and I don’t, got up and went to the bathroom. In the cubicle, I took off my dress, opened my handbag, fished out my bra, put it on (yes, sometimes I leave hotels in a bit of a hurry), then the dress, and went out. On the way back to my seat I had to pass a group of men – all in their 40s, professionals in smart casual, loud, animated and in high spirits – sitting at a long table. As I was passing by, one of them, who was sitting with his back to me, turned around and looked at me. Not just a casual quick look, but an invasive long eye contact. I gave the same back. As I passed their table, all the men laughed loudly. I ignored them. Kids will be kids.
An hour later, I asked for the bill and went to the bathroom again, this time to actually use it. The men were still there, and on my way back to the main room the man did the same: went out of his way to turn round and stare me in the eye. As I pass them, they laugh again. And again other customers look at me with curiosity.
My problem is that I really don’t bear fools easily. They only act this way because I’m on my own (can you imagine them laughing at me if I were accompanied by a man?) and because there are 12 of them. I pay the bill and instead of heading for the doors I go in the opposite direction.
As I come up to the man who gave me the look, the whole group goes quiet. The man understands that something’s going on and turns round. The twelve of them are now looking at me in complete silence. He is sitting, so if I am to stand straight, I get the dominant position. But if I go down to his level (literally, not metaphorically), I get an advantage. So I smile, make one last step to the back of his chair and bend down slightly. Now my lips are close to his left ear and his nose is almost touching my cleavage. I regret having bothered to put on that bra, but too late now. “Hi,” – I say in his ear.
There was a number of things I thought he might do, but I would never have predicted this: he audibly swallowed, like they do in cartoons. Did you know it was possible at all in real life? He didn’t say hi. He just nodded. So I went on:
– I’ve a feeling there’s something you may want to tell me.
– I… er… Maybe… Could we go outside for this?
– You mean you can make fun of a woman in front of your friends, but you can’t give your apologies to her in front of them?
Suddenly all his friends, who have been listening attentively, turn away and start talking to each other. Whether that was to give us privacy or to avoid embarrassment – I don’t know. He keeps on stammering, his eyes running from my cleavage to his hands and back:
– Apologies? I… I didn’t mean to… It’s your dress!
– My dress?
– Yes, your dress! It’s a very beautiful dress!
– So you saw me passing by and you turned to your friends to tell them that you liked my dress?
– Er… Yes, I’m sorry.
I’m not at all sure he’s feeling sorry about making fun of a woman, but I can tell he’s sorry he came to this place, and he’s sorry he tried so hard to show off in front of his friends who have now deserted him completely. That’s good enough for me: if he doesn’t do it again when with his friends, he’s highly unlikely to do it when on his own. I can tell he’d make a very good client: a man with his mates and the same man alone with a woman are often entirely different people. I straighten up and head for the door. No-one’s laughing this time. Outside, I get a cab and go home, and the following day the waiter is the only one to remember the incident: the man, I’m sure, is trying hard to forget it.