All I was interested in was getting some breakfast. I wasn’t pressed for time. I wasn’t looking to judge.
I’d taken the hotel shuttle and passed through the TSA screening. The shuttle was filled with flight attendants soon to be on their way to who knows where. Their uniforms were crisp, professional. I glanced at what I was wearing and thought myself under-dressed by comparison. The shuttle smelled pretty, like perfume. TSA was uneventful.
I was leaving out of a C gate, but instead started walking the other way, toward B, because I’d mis-read the departure board. My “details” are not always the greatest. On my right, I noticed The Silver Diner. It was big, maybe the biggest airport restaurant I’ve seen, and hard to miss. The graphics on the window said it was owned, sponsored or otherwise inspired by a chef, a picture of whom was prominently portrayed, but whom I’d never heard of. Organic, locally sourced, farm to table. All the right buzz words. Sounded perfect. Me time mixed with food time. Why not?
My table at the Silver was in the area where on one side you sat on a bench and on the other a chair. It reminded me of what I call the ‘diner density’ arrangement you experience at a lot of New York City restaurants that are cramped for space. The distance between each table was narrow, just enough space for a normal [I know…. Whatever that means] sized person to shuffle through sideways if they needed to be on the bench side. I was alone, so I took the chair side to avoid that shuffle.
I read the newspaper on my iPad while I ate the goat cheese and tomato omelet and a side of fruit. The seating arrangement made conversations easy to hear, even when people were trying to be quiet. I tried not to listen, but voices travel in these settings, like they do across water.
A husband and wife sat at a table a few spots to my right when I was half way done.
“You never told me that we were at the C gate instead of the International,” he told her, angrily. He had his wallet and paperwork on the table.
“I did tell you that, multiple times,” she responded, “but you’re always looking at that thing [his phone] and never listening to me.”
“You never told me that”
“I did, multiple times”
“Service, we need service,” he blurted.
“Shhh…. calm down,” she said, attempting to sooth the situation and reaching to stroke his arm with her hand. He pulled it back and started looking at his phone again.
They were in their mid, maybe upper, 50’s best I could tell and well dressed. Not in a corporate way, but on the higher end of the airplane dress code ladder [above onesies, sweats and yoga pants], for example.
They managed to settle down long enough to get their order in. He said “coffee, coffee” several times, loudly, like he was manic, or the waitress was deaf. Then there was a lull. I thought maybe the argument was over and that they’d made up, perhaps via some non-verbal osmosis-like code they’d developed together.
Before their food came, he resumed. “Everything you’re telling me is complete bullsh*t.”
“It’s not bullsh*t,” she said in a pleading voice with a touch of you’re an idiot sprinkled in.
I peeked their way. He was looking at his phone, as if he was conceding her the win on that point. She was glancing my way. I could see apology and embarrassment in her eyes and body language. In him, I saw oblivion and defiance.
Observing this made me sad.
How, I thought, can a couple that I’m presuming has been married for a long time, not be able to put this one quickly, and permanently, in the back pocket of insignificant disagreements about something that doesn’t matter. Is something so trivial – did you tell me / didn’t you tell me – really worth the pain of this exchange? If they did need to argue about it, why here and now, at the Silver – in front of strangers. Is this what’s it’s like for them all day, every day, about everything? How can they be happy? Why are they together? How can this be love?
I know, I said earlier that I wasn’t looking to judge, but here I am, judging. I realize that’s not PC. It’s not something I should be doing. My kids often toss the “Don’t Judge” admonishment in my direction. But it’s just impossible for my brain not to observe things that cause me to have opinions. Can you do that? I can’t help but wonder what’s going on, even if I don’t care. Because what I see won’t let me. It’s subconscious and uncontrollable. It happens on its own. I’m not in control.
And, of course, I could have it all wrong. After all, my judgment about this and all situations is, ultimately, a guess. It’s an observance fashioned into an opinion by the combination of my brain programming and my experiences. It’s full of bias. It happens through a process I don’t fully understand and can’t describe with sufficient certainty.
Maybe couples that communicate like these two should be lauded for their honesty, their transparency, their vulnerability, and any other “y” ending word that it is now in vogue to be. After all, it takes courage to be a ‘we are who we are and if you don’t like it, the hell with you’ couple, right? “Worry about judging yourself instead of us you [blanking] jerk,” they might throw in my face. Maybe getting all of their disagreements out of the way, talking through them when, where and however they feel like it, is healthy. Maybe it brings them closer together. Clears their minds. Makes them want each other more.
You be the Judge.
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