“Your lady is hot. Good job.”
My eyes narrowed into slits. Hot? Good job? Your lady?!
I’d humored the old man for the past twenty minutes, mumbling answers to his questions while Matt and I attempted to enjoy our meal. I tried not to laugh when he explained to me how Google worked. He just wanted someone to talk to. I could understand that. Respect your elders. Mind your manners. My mother would be so proud.
But then he called me hot.
Matt’s eyes slid over to meet mine. He could see my rage rising to the surface but I pushed it down, put on my best smile, and returned to my food. This old man would steal no more of my time.
I ate the remainder of my food in silence while Matt continued the conversation. The bartender stood off to the side, sensing the change in atmosphere, and waited to see the show. He wouldn’t get one though. My parents taught me better, right?
I told myself not to worry about it; that the old man meant it as a compliment and it just came out wrong. I told myself he’d leave soon and I’d probably never see him again.
My wish came true a few minutes later. He paid his tab and stood to leave. A hand suddenly gripped my shoulder and I turned to find him smiling down at me. His eyes flickered to my wrist.
“What’s that?” he asked, reaching for my hand. I instinctively pulled it away but held it out for him to see.
“It says Namaste,” I whispered as I tried to maneuver my shoulder out from his grasp.
“Well, that was a mistake,” he said, shaking his head. I glanced over at the now-chuckling bartender who had a sleeve of tattoos running up his right arm. I turned back to the old man and crossed my arms across my chest; the universal sign for back the hell off.
“I don’t think so,” I said, staring him down. “To each his own, right?”
Not taking the hint, the old man dug in. “So what do you do?” he asked.
I honestly couldn’t tell if he was just avoiding going home or flirting with me.
“I’m a paralegal,” I said, my tone empty of interest in the conversation. I told him the name of my firm and his hand squeezed my shoulder tight.
“Aw man, you work for those scumbags?” he bellowed, doubling over and slapping his knee as if I’d just told the funniest joke in the world.
My southern manners ceased in an instant. I removed his hand from my shoulder and it dropped to his side unnoticed. I bit my tongue as my mother’s words echoed through my mind.
Always respect your elders.
Always mind your manners.
I know there should be exceptions to the rule. There are times when manners should be tossed aside to protect yourself and your pride.
But I still couldn’t do it to him. I didn’t know his story. So I turned back to the bartender, pointed to my empty glass, and dismissed the old man who still laughed behind me.