Actually we all laughed, and it got us all into trouble.
I’m not sure what happened. It hasn’t ever happened to me before, and I hope it never happens to me again. It was mortifying.
My sister has been staying with us for a few days, and it’s been lovely. Last night the husband and I, my sister, and my brother and his partner all went out for an early supper, and it was early, too; we arrived at six o’clock, more-or-less.
We are a happy little band. It was my brother who introduced me to my husband, and they have been the best of friends forever, and my brother’s partner is the amazing Vanessa May; I’ve written about her here before.
We were chatting and laughing and eating and drinking. OK my brother, Vanessa and I were sharing a bottle of wine as the husband and my sister don’t drink, so we weren’t exactly having a wild night, and it was a nice family pub/restaurant so it was all very relaxed. How wild could it get, do you imagine, considering that the five of us have been around for a total of about 240 years, and three of us are related? You’re right... Not all that wild.
At a table adjacent, but not terribly close, to ours sat three people whose combined ages was about the same as ours, and about half an hour into our evening one of the women got up, went over to the bar and started talking to the manager, pointing in our direction, frowning, and then gesticulating all over the place.
It became abundantly clear, very quickly, that she was complaining.
We were being complained about.
It would appear that we five middle-aged, middle-class, professional people with our stressful jobs and our mortgages and our complicated sandwich-generation lives were pissing off three old people because we were having a good time, en famille.
The manager, in his wisdom, placated the woman, and moved the trio to another table, rather than moving us. Seeing how crestfallen I was, he then came over to our table to make sure that we were OK, and remained attentive all evening. He even joked that they’d paid with luncheon vouchers and hadn’t left a tip.
I have to say that the staff, and the manager in particular, salved my conscience and saved my evening.
But why did I feel bad? I had done nothing wrong or inappropriate. I hadn’t spat or sworn or danced naked on the table. I hadn’t shouted or cried, or made any sort of scene. I hadn’t sung badly, knocked anything over, been rude to a member of staff, scolded someone else’s child or thrown my food... I had laughed... We had laughed.
How miserable it must be to pour scorn on another’s moment of happiness, how sad to despise laughter, how pathetic to deny the innocent pleasure of good-humoured, loving company.
I hate to be made to feel the way that I did, but I’m left with an overriding urge to pity those three unfortunate souls. To reach such advanced years and not to want to take every opportunity to smile seems such a waste. Isn’t laughter supposed to be infectious?
If I reach eighty, I plan to start drinking very good whisky all day long and smoking hand rolled Cuban cigars, and I plan to laugh at every damned opportunity that life presents. If that means joining in with a secondhand giggle at the tag end of a joke I didn’t hear or don’t actually understand, that’s good too.
And, if life doesn’t go to plan, and I turn into a grizzled old curmudgeon, you have my permission to do the other thing, only make it quick and painless, if you can, but, above all, do try to make it funny... Because, you know what? I’ll be more than happy if the last laugh’s on me.