Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dining with the 300 pairs of eyes

Our small town's annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet was last night. For $12 a ticket, we'd get a catered meal, a few presentations, a guest speaker, and the chance to hobnob with the upstanding business men and women of the town.

We were the last ones to arrive at the shindig, which was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

We arrived at 6:40 p.m.

By then, all 300-plus guests were well into their catered meal of smoked brisket, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, salad with ranch dressing (more on ranch dressing later), a generous wedge of chocolate/pecan cheesecake, and the most humongous baked potato I've ever seen that took up more than half of my Chinette.

10 minutes late and we were the absolute last ones to be seated. Amazing, these small town folk and their passion for promptness.

Now, I've always been one of those "sit in the front row of class" kinda guys. Not that I was an ideal student, who hung on every word uttered by their teachers. Nothing so honorable. By sitting in the front row I was less likely to nod off and let my head do the "2-second-in-class-nap-head-bob" if I knew the teacher/professor would be looking right at me.

As dictated by my penchants to sit up front, I led my comely wife forwards, scanning the long tables for a deuce of empty seats. The only seats we found open were at a table at the very front, so we sauntered on up, made sure the seats were vacant, and smiled graciously as if to excuse our tardiness.

Good. We were late, but hadn't caused any commotion. Those in the room who may have known us or of us, knew we were from LA and that "those" people are always running late because of "traffic on the 10 freeway."

As we got comfortable in the folding metal chairs, the table introductions began.
Mr. City Manager, a pleasure.
Mr. Councilman, nice to meet you.
Mrs. Councilwoman, great pleasure to meet you.
Mr. County District Attorney, how very nice to meet you.
Madame Mayor. what an honor and pleasure it is to meet you.
Mr. Oklahoma State Senator, what a surprise to see you here.
Mr. Oklahoma State Representative, doing a great job, thanks for being here.

This is the point where, had we been in a movie, we'd look around to see the entire room staring back at us in utter disbelief, that we would have the unsophisticated audacity to sit where we chose to sit.

Men in tuxedos would snort. Women in gowns would huff. Children would wail, and dogs would flatulate.

Turns out we had planted our patooties at the table reserved for the politico movers and shakers of our small town's hallowed hallways of government. Without an invitation to sit with them, without a hostess mistakenly seating us there, and without even a hint of hesitancy, we inadvertently may have caused a minor stir amongst the other dinner goers.

I'l say one thing for living in Oklahoma...people here are darn polite, as not one person asked us to leave, not one person mentioned to us the error of our seat selection ways, and not one person told us to our face that the table was reserved for the city's top government officials.

Now, behind our back, that may be another story.

The movie theater in my mind projects a double-feature at the downtown cafe and local donut shop this morning, as coffee talk centers on the city slicker/outsiders who plopped themselves down at the head table and dipped their brisket in the same sauce bucket as the Senator, Congressman, and Mayor.

Or maybe not. The weather is nice today, so perhaps that will take precedence in our small town's grapevine.

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