We decided to take the kids out to dinner last night. We went to a local Italian place that specializes in "toasted raviolis" and has killer bread on the table. Simple, cheap, and kid friendly were the three requirements and this is the place to accomplish them nicely.
When we got to the restaurant there was a bit of a wait. Carter and I secured two seats that were on either side of a table. This table is known in the restaurant as the mint table. For as long as I can remember the restaurant has had a mint bowl set out on the table for all to enjoy. There is a long silver spoon that rests amidst the mints so that you don't feel threatened by the overwhelming fecal count as you spoon treats into your hand.
The mints are those pastel colored buttery tasting mints. My great aunts used to keep them in a small dish in their front hall. They were two sisters who had never married and just stayed together in an antique row house in South Boston. Ever year for Christmas they'd knit us mittens, but they never made the thumb hole large enough. My Mother would make us wear the useless mittens whenever we went to visit. Going to their house was like going over to Jane and Michael Bank's house and waiting for Mary Poppins to show up. Everything was stiff, rigid and breakable. For half of the afternoon one sister would Lord over a formal luncheon, which we had to sit painfully still for and choke down canned salmon tea sandwiches. For the other half of the day the cool sister would play "Macy's" with us in the butler's party. The pantry had an accordion style folding door. Very elevator like. She'd spend an hour calling out imaginary floors and opening the doors for us to go shop.
I loved to go visit them so I could snarf through mints all afternoon. They were exactly the type of thing my mother would never buy. My aunt's had a huge jar up on the shelf in the hall closet. Once a week one of the frail osteoporosis ridden women would drag over an embroidered foot stool and pull down this massive jar and pour exactly 17 mints into the small paper thin porcelain dish. When I came they would just leave the jar out and let me absolutely pork out on obscene amounts of mints and then give me a little paper bag with 18 mints in it for, "the ride home" . The aunts would hand me the bag and we'd go through that awkward moment when they'd realize I couldn't hold things properly due to my malformed mitten thumb. They'd pat my head and tuck the bag under my arm.
I discovered last night that there are other's out there that feel strongly about their memories of butter mints. As my daughter and I sat, a woman came lurching over to peer into the mint bowl. It happened to be empty. She scowled and looked at me:
Drunk: "Whaaaaaaat? No mints? You kiddin'?"
I smile politely. That smile that says, Yes, you are crazy/drunk/scary but I will continue this conversation with you so you don't stab/puke on/threaten me.
Me: Yes, it seems they are out."
Drunk: That's bullshit!" she stalked off towards the door of the ladies room.
I shook my head and said, "Wow, she is really drunk." My 12 year old perked up at this. She wanted to know how I knew that this woman was drunk. They were ticking off in my head like a grocery list. First and foremost she had just emerged from the lounge at 4pm on a Monday afternoon. However, other indicating items included:
-a Utah claw
-bedazzled white Levi's jacket
-circa '03 lipstick from Wet and Wild
-Daisy Fuentes jeans
(it always goes back to the jeans)
I simply said it was the way she was behaving and I could smell it on her. I looked knowingly at Carter and tapped my nose as if to indicate. "Yeah, watch out. That's right. I can smell it, hotshot."
After she had disappeared into the bathroom a worker came from the back with a large plastic bag filled with the mints and began dumping them into the silver bowl. I wish he had taken the bowl out back. Preserved some of the magic of the ritual. I was disappointed in the bag, no large glass jar on top of Aunt Rose's hall closet. Just a guy in a Red Sox t-shirt dumping mints unceremoniously into the container. I did not get too disenchanted because now I was faced with the delightful scenario of watching Mary Ann McSmashed come out of the restroom and getting her mint. She stumbled out of the bathroom and started walking past us, but reared up short when she saw that the mint bowl had been filled. She staggered over to the bowl and looked at me.
"Mints!" She exclaimed
I nodded as if I had something to do with it, smiling at her. She was so happy and drunk, why not take credit? Mint guy was long gone. She dove her two hands into the bowl like she was looking for her child's sock in one of those vile ball pits filled with mucus and stupidity. She began transporting handfuls of the mints into her pocketbook. I was dumbfounded. I started looking around wondering if any level-headed adults were watching this hilarious social misstep unfold. She dove back in three more times telling me that she wanted some for the road. Just like my paper bags, but way over the 18 mint maximum level. She wandered off, her pocketbook banging against her leg like a kid at Halloween.
"Oh, wow! She is drunk, you were right.", Carter said wide-eyed. "She didn't use the spoon."