Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Five Minutes Chance

As a last resort we had lunch at an anonymous Italian place in Hammersmith, no music playing. A strange couple occupied the table by the door. It was hard to know whether they were married or mother and son. They were disheveled. Their body language said we ain’t payin’. Legs stretched out too far. Chairs not facing the table.

The proprietor was the only staff. He alternately waited on us courteously and engaged in a strange dispute with the others. At one point the woman shuffled outside, probably to have a smoke. “Why are you her puppy dog?!” he snapped at the man in his weird Italian-British accent. “Why are you her poodle?”

There never was a reply from the shabby man. It continued like this—the woman returning, the man getting up to pace outside awhile, the man coming back, the woman leaving again. The owner chiding them vaguely—maybe for loitering, maybe for something more. They didn’t seem related to him. They seemed stuck to him. Always leaving but always coming back. Were they waiting for money? Free food?

Finally they shuffled down the sidewalk but you knew it couldn’t be for long. The owner peered unhappily out the picture window. The police had arrived to ticket cars.

“It’s ridiculous!” he declared. “They hide ‘round the corner. They supposed to wait five minutes, five minutes!” He shook his head.

Outside a young cop had his pad out and was moving in for the kill.

“They supposed to give five minutes after the cars run out of time!” he went on. I made some polite, assenting rejoinders: Yes. It is ridiculous. He didn’t seem to hear. He kept looking out the window.

“They supposed to give five minutes chance for people! But they hide ‘round the corner. They hide in the bushes five minutes and they come out!”

He kept staring a few more seconds then turned around to get our check.