I went to see my friend Marc and his new band A'tris perform at Blake's on Wednesday night. I showed up a little early, and spotted two friends sitting in the restaurant section of Blake's, so I sat at a neighboring table. I normally don't like sitting at a table when I have no intention of ordering food or drink, but it was nearly nine o'clock on a Wednesday night, and my friends were sitting at one of only three occupied tables.
I sat for a while, talking to Abbie about life, love, and Pittsburgh. I have no concept of Pittsburgh, beyond whatever I gleaned from reading Wonder Boys, which might not even be set in Pittsburgh proper, now that I think about it. There's the Three Rivers, which Abbie informs me are not all that impressive, though there are three. I know it's in the Rust Belt, but I have even less of a concept of the "Rust Belt". Narrower than the Bible Belt, but twice as flashy. And ten times as rusty. Surely there's more than steel mills, but what?
It's a five-hour drive from Philly, Pittsburgh is. They're as far apart as San Francisco and Los Angeles, with the difference being you might visit Los Angeles for fun, whereas you'd probably only go to Philly on a dare, or as some sort of punishment. Or "medical school", if you like cheese steaks, disappointing postseason performances from local sports teams, or the nation of Belgium. I imagine there are also a lot of Guidos there.
That was a tangent. So the restaurant, she was empty. A clear sign of this came when our other friend arrived, with an accordion strapped to his back. An man with an accordion might well be the canary in the coal mine that is restaurant occupancy. If a man can freely walk in with such a bulky, unwieldy, and downright obnoxious instrument on his back, and nary a patron bats nary an eye, then the restaurant is empty. And worse, potentially the site of an impromptu accordion jamboree.
Also, accordions are extremely sensitive to carbon monoxide.
Nonetheless, during our chat, I heard a man's voice behind me, speaking to the three girls seated at the table near the door. I couldn't see the man's face, or that of his partner, but I'm glad I could not, for the awkwardness was bad enough as it was. The man said, "Hi. This place is pretty crowded, so..."
At that point he paused, possibly because he realized the absurdity of what he had just said. Or he saw the accordion, and was momentarily terrified. One girl began to say, "What?", and though I was secretly hoping she'd say something about how she didn't accept the premise of his question, he charged forward before she could continue.
"So, we were wondering if you minded if we sat down here?"
Another painful pause ensued, as I stared down at my lap, hoping this would end soon. One girl said, "Yes".
But that was not the end. Because he had asked such an awkward question, he had to get clarification.
"Do you mean, yes, you mind, or, um, yes, we can sit here?"
It was unbearably awkward. If this scene were in a movie, the score would have to be composed on accordion. I half-shouted a question about Flashdance, proximity to the Erie Canal, Wonder Boys, I don't even remember exactly, just so I didn't overhear any more.
Not long after this, we headed downstairs to the show. I caught just a brief glimpse of the tableau. They sat around the table:
Girl, Boy, Boy, Girl Girl
And their moods were:
Embarrassed, Stoic, Embarrassed/Weepy, Enraged, Embarrased/Leaving, respectively.
The lesson, as always, is, Berkeley is full of nerds.