I’m in Bistro 990. I am paying to be here. This is for myself. That’s okay.


This is an arrangement, an exchange. They’ll take care of me—at least nominally—and I’ll pay them for that privilege. Clear, simple, direct. Dignified. (Of course, there’s always snootiness, but I can bear that affront.)


It takes me a moment to realize that the music they’ve playing is satellite radio—the “Coffee House” channel (endless acoustic covers of well-known songs). The same station plays in a dated and countrified Orangeville café I sometimes frequent. There facile, presumptive, even absurd. Here a little crass, a little disruptive. But no more crass than anything else. Natural. What should I expect? I would prefer something else. But the atmosphere permits the disturbance. What I’m really feeling is a little awe, a slight inferiority, an insecurity (“Is there a dress code?”). Pretension. And pretension bears pretension well.

Especially for someone susceptible to authority.


(Pretension: claim to an “authentic” tradition to which one does not belong. “Coffee house” suggests live performance. Acoustic instead of electric, or instead of a large arrangement: more intimate, more “human”, but playing on an automated corporate radio station.)


What else? It’s the quiet (I’m alone, in the front room), and also—I’m not ashamed to admit—the clientele. I don’t know if I like the customers who filter through on their way from the dining room. But I don’t have to like them. I don’t have to know them. In Orangeville I’m confronted with the outrage, the exaggeration of the other customers. Their neglect. I identify with their unkempt attitude, even though I attempt to distinguish myself. Right now it’s nice to inhabit a space that excludes, that represses, that hides (I’m not speaking of hiding people, but of a kind of interaction which rejects superfluity, which obliterates—or makes unnecessary—the self, myself).


But it’s not all restraint here. Since I’m the only one, since I am by-and-large an insignificant personage, the waiters come in to banter loudly with the bartender. The head waiter, who speaks loudest, with the most confidence, the most jocularity, sometimes catches my eye. I’m not sure whether to acknowledge the affront (is that what it is?) or to pretend as if nothing were happening.


The head waiter bends back, tipping a glass to his lips. “This woman didn’t touch her water.” Could he really be drinking from her glass? I want to trust his action, his words, but it seems unlikely. I’ve misunderstood. Perhaps it’s another glass. Sleight of hand—nothing is what it seems, especially not when it appears  simple.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s