Whenever I drive past Miller’s Ale House in Levittown, I am reminded of the time I ate lunch there and sat too close to the bar stools.
A few years before the coronavirus pandemic came to our shores, my husband, Mike, and I had the luxury of dining out on weekdays. One Wednesday afternoon, I was suggesting places he could take me for lunch when he interrupted. "Rose," he said, "have you ever thought of taking me out to lunch? I would like to be wined and dined, too, and it would be nice if, for once, you picked up the check."
I was amused by his request and said, "OK, but I’ll choose the restaurant."
I drove us to the ale house, a family-style restaurant with good food and an affordable menu that we attend only during the daytime. At night, though, it’s a sports bar with several TV screens for apparently rowdy patrons: In the parking lot, I noticed signs that said to respect the neighbors and keep the noise down.
As Mike and I walked in, a free-standing board greeted you with the day’s specials. I jokingly cautioned Mike to look for the menu specials and to avoid ordering expensive drinks. The warm ale house atmosphere, together with the hot meals, were a welcome contrast to the harsh February weather. What was not welcome, though, was the seating arrangement.
We were escorted to a booth adjacent to the bar. Only a single aisle separated the two areas, and it was impossible to hear each other over the noisy bar patrons. To add to our disappointment, the man seated at the bar stool closest to us was carrying on a conversation in a deafeningly loud voice with two pals. And his loud voice was generously sprinkled with a harsh expletive. Mike and I finally gave up trying to hold a conversation and ate silently, making a mental note that in the future, we would be more selective in the seating we accepted.
Mike completed his meal and stepped away from the table. I finished my lunch, waiting for my husband to return. While I waited, the man opposite me, a tall fellow wearing a sweatshirt, continued to talk loudly and dropped that same nasty expletive. This time, he looked around and saw me seated behind him. Facing me, he said, "I apologize for my language." I smiled and in a friendly voice said, "You used that word many times since I sat down, and it was impossible not to hear you." We both laughed. The man apologized again, adding that he is hearing impaired so he speaks loudly. I responded, "I guess I should have moved to a different section."
The server brought the check to my table and, before I could reach for it, the man picked it up. He said, "I’m paying for your lunch." I smiled, telling him it was not necessary, but he insisted. I said thank you and left the table.
I waited for my husband by the entrance. When Mike found me, I told him about the man’s kindness. Mike stared at me and, in a frustrated voice, said, "It was the one time you were going to pay, and I lost out again."
Reader Rose Warren lives in Plainedge.