One of my greatest pleasures in life is sitting in a public place and watching things go on around me. At a glance the world seems relatively normal, but in reality it's often strange and surreal if you'll just pause for a moment and become very aware of what's happening nearby.
It also helps to be invisible as I frequently seem to be.
Recently I was at a lunch meeting and one of the first to arrive. I picked a spot at the very end of the table so I could see everyone down both sides. I was also the only person not eating. I end up at several lunch meetings during the month and after a while you can only take so much of that self-indulgence.
Mr. Jefferson was two seats down to my right and was dressed in slacks, a white shirt and a nice tie. Just back from the buffet, he sat down with a bowl of steamed cauliflower. Just cauliflower.
He unwrapped his silverware from the napkin and put the fork to the left of the bowl and his spoon and knife to the right. He unfolded the napkin and placed it across his lap, then laid both his hands on the silverware to ensure the utensils were lined up just-so.
He pursed his lips and nodded with satisfaction, then picked up his fork and began eating his veggies. And when I say veggies I really mean cauliflower. Just cauliflower.
Mr. Jefferson is a tidy man, well put-together. There's something about him that is vaguely disturbing but after knowing him for about a year and occasionally being in meetings with him I still haven't been able to figure out just what it is. Perhaps because he is the anti-me. As far to the extreme as he is in quietude, appropriateness, tidiness and orderly demeanor, I balance him out at the other end of the scale. I swear he breaks out in a sweat every time I come near him.
I don't blame him. Sometimes I make my own self nervous.
With the meeting commencing we got down to business. Mr. Jefferson sat quietly with input when it was required of him. The waitress brought him a plate with a steak on it and an empty bowl for veggies. "I brought your bowl for you, but I see you already got it yourself," she said. He nodded, staring down at his used empty bowl.
Directly to my right, Mr. Dobbs drank from his glass, condensation dripping from the glass to the table. I resisted a powerful urge to fold up a napkin to put under his drink. I hardly know him.
Now who is being particular?
Partly through the meeting I felt a gargantuan sneeze coming on, so I grabbed a napkin from a stack in front of me and slapped it over my mouth and nose just in time to keep a germaceous hurricane of possibly-diseased air from swirling around a member of the local government on my left.
I do not sneeze very lady-like and with a vigorous AAACHOOOOOOOOO I interrupted the meeting. Mr. Jefferson turned toward me and looked at me with a napkin over my face. He nodded with approval and said, "That's right!" I just sat there and stared at him, unsure how to respond.
I forgot to mention that Mr. Jefferson is in a health-related field so I guess he was affirming to me that I was doing the right thing making liberal use of the free restaurant napkins.
I noticed later when he coughed he put his own napkin up to his mouth, coughed into it, folded it and lined it up very carefully next to the fork at the left side of his plate, patting it down gently.
Mr. Jefferson is a particular man.