Looking for a quick bite before the theatre in London the other night, we blundered into what looked like a promising wine bar. We ordered a promising rosé and a bit of raw fish, but before the food arrived, it sank into us: we were older by a factor of two, maybe two and a half than anybody else in the room. And it seems we had made our way in just in time: in front of our eyes the room filled up, and a queue started to grow in the street. The decibel level went high enough that Mrs. B discreetly dismembered a Kleenex and improvised earplugs for herself.
None of this is a complaint. The fish was fine and the wine, as they say, drinkable. But it did propel me into a moment of Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt as I found myself wondering/marveling as to just who these people were. Provisional first take: this was probably about the brightest, cleverest, most prosperous, best looking crowd you were likely to find anywhere in town just now (ignoring us, which they were pretty well able to do). And they were having a wonderful time, and life was good. Only then did it sink in on me--this is Friday night, this is the celebratory beginning of a good weekend. And then it struck me: there's a party (maybe a dozen parties) just like this going on now (well--adjust for time zones) in New York, in San Francisco, in Sidney, in St. Petersburg (yes?)--and downscale versions of the same in Charlotte, in Grenoble, maybe Sverdlovsk. The wine and the money flow and times are good.
Half an hour later we made a deft and unobserved exit and so end of story. But I kept thinking of this crowd all weekend--as, for example, I read about all those over-50s who are waking up to the fact that they may never find a job again. Or when I read about that guy who is so outraged because he and his wife only make $455,000 a year. Or--but then my mind goes back to the wine bar and ask myself: what if some guy in a nightgown with a scraggly beard stumbled in here holding a sign that asid "Repent for the End is Nigh!" Would they throw him out? Would they eat him alive? Nah, spirits were much to good for that. My best guess is that someone would put an arm around him and sit him down and buy him a drink.
Afterthought: maybe the guy with the sign is me.