Major Reservations

"So, I thought we were meeting at Jaleo," the Brunette said, as Great-Uncle Leadbelly and I walked up to her in Adelphi Plaza.

"Great-Uncle preferred to re-live his halcyon days," I said.

"I don't know anything about no kingfishers," Leadbelly interjected. We both ignored my imaginary great uncle (on my sister's side).

"And Ledo's will be a bit more friendly, I think," I finished. She raised her eyebrows.

"What happened at Jaleo?" she wanted to know.

"Some people," I said, "have trouble dealing with the fact that the world isn't always fair." Leadbelly snorted. "I'll tell you about it over the pizza."


I picked up Leadbelly from his wee condo on the Republican Retirement Ranch and we drove down to Bethesda to peruse the used books at Second Story Books. Of course, I usually spend most of my time keeping my great uncle away from the store's cat, but this time he couldn't find the cat, so I was free to wander through the stacks.

I should have known better.

After a bit, it occurred to me to check on Leadbelly's activities. Even if he wasn't torturing the cat, he could be doing something worse: hiding all the JFK and FDR biographies, complaining to the cashier about tax rates, or chatting up the better-looking customers. I searched the store fairly quickly (it's not as large as the warehouse in Rockville) and found no trace of my great uncle. So I rushed outside. I saw him down the street; he turned the corner onto Woodmont and disappeared from sight.

I tried to catch up, but I had a bear of a time crossing the streets. When I finally caught up to him, Great Uncle Leadbelly was already inside the doors at Jaleo.

"Great Uncle!" I said, out of breath. "What are you doing?"

"I got tired of that enclave for social activism," he replied. "I thought I'd make it easier for us tonight, my boy, by making reservations."

"Ah," was the best I could do.

Leadbelly turned back to the hostess. She was one of those annoyingly skinny people who get lost in a UPC symbol. "As I was saying," he said, "I'd like to make a reservation for tonight at 7."

"I'm sorry," she said. "We don't take reservations after 6."

"You don't?" Great-Uncle replied. He used his fake-surprise voice. I started to look around nervously.

"No, sir."

"So, you're telling me," Leadbelly went on, "that nobody ever gets a reservation for after 6 here?"

His voice had kicked it up another notch. His head shook slightly from left to right and back with each word. I tugged on Leadbelly's sleeve. C'mon, man, I'm thinking. We already got the info...

"Well," the hostess admitted. "We will sometimes give reservations to very large parties, over 10 people. Like that."

"Did you happen to notice that I didn't tell you how large our party was?" Leadbelly said. He was nearly at shouting level, now. I happened to notice the bartender noticing us. He was one of those annoyingly large people who can cause great harm to medium sized people. Me, for example.

"Let's go, Great Uncle," I tried. There would only be three of us.

"And we won't seat you, if your whole party isn't here," the hostess said. She had an annoying little smirk.

"I just want to get this straight: Nobody in a group smaller than 10 ever gets a reservation for after 6 pm?" Great Uncle Leadbelly had reached the shouting level. The bartending gorilla began to move in our direction.

"No, uh.." She was starting to look a little nervous.

"Even, say, a party of six at 7 o'-clock? Or maybe only if my name were Richardson?" Leadbelly was turning purple. I grabbed his elbow and tried to steer him out of the restaurant. He turned his attention to me. "No, I will not have it! I will not be lied to."

"But.."

"You can clearly see two names on her reservation list with times after 6 and groups smaller than 10! This is not right."

"I'm sorry, gentlemen," the bartender told us. "But I need to ask you to leave."

"Ha!" said Leadbelly. "The problem is that we don't fit your profile, isn't it? We're not young and hip enough to take up space in your precious little --"

This is the point at which Great Uncle's cane slipped. He has a tendency to wave it around when he pontificates, and somehow he lost his grip. The four of us watched breathlessly as the cane flew across the room toward a table of Asian diplomats. It crashed to their table, scattering plates and dishes everywhere. Amazingly, nobody was actually hit.


"So, that's when we left," I said. "It seemed like the time to go."

"I see," said the Brunette. "I imagine we won't be going back there for a while."

"It's the principle of the thing," my great uncle proclaimed. "Some things just aren't right!"

"Sometimes, he loses perspective," I said apologetically. "I don't know how to--" I stopped speaking.

"What?" she asked when I didn't finish my sentence. We were back in the parking lot and I had noticed something annoying.

"Over there," I said. "That cop. He's driving along talking on a hand-held mobile phone!" I could tell my voice was getting shrill, but I didn't care.

"So?"

"So?! So, if the upholders of public safety start exhibiting unsafe behaviour, we are all lost." I get angry at regular drivers when they break the law, but when a police officer does it, boy, I'm livid. "It's the principle of the thing! They're supposed to be our models. They're supposed to be the paragons of law-abidanceship or something. I'm going to write his car number down."

I humphed and grumped for a few minutes more. I scratched and scrabbled through my pockets looking for paper and pen. Ooo, that dirty trap. Augh. As I was making this noisy display, an older couple passed by nervously.

"Some people," the Brunette said, "have trouble dealing with the fact that life isn't always fair." I had to walk into the parking lot to see the officer's car number so I could write it down. I knew what she meant; that Great Uncle of mine goes too far, sometimes.


By the way, the officer was a PG County officer. His cruiser's number was 477. Harrumph. And the tapas at Bambule are much more delicious, any way. The empanadillas are glorious. Yum.

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