Reserved Seating

The first thing one sees upon entering a hall is not bride, groom, nor the coat room. Front and center is a table, covered in place-cards. Those little bits of heavy-stock paper decide each guest’s situation of life for the next few hours. The couple and their families spent time – some of them the whole previous night, foregoing sleep and imbibing coffee – to find the perfect configuration of each person’s seat. Every person was selected, inspected, and elected to sit a specific table with specific people. 90% of the guests were carefully placed at tables where they would comfortably mix and mingle, enjoy good conversation and company. The other 10% did not quite fit in with any of the other guests – these are the obligatory invitees, the oddball friends, and quirky relative – the ones who really couldn’t be put with anyone else and so were lumped together. Regardless of their favor in the eyes of the table-arrangers, all guests are treated equally to a place-card, and equally they are obliged to follow its directions.

Weddings are not a round of musical chairs. Someone, after at least moderately careful consideration, placed you where they wanted you. Picking up and moving to a different table, albeit one where you’re less likely to hear a discourse on your seatmate’s medical history, is rude. It’s not just rude to your hosts, it’s rude to whoever was placed at that table. There’s a reason you weren’t put there – perhaps the hosts thought someone at your assigned table would enjoy meeting you, or perhaps they really didn’t want you mingling with the other guests. Whatever the reason, you were invited to sit in your seat, not someone else’s.
I was once displaced from my seat at a wedding. Following the place-card’s direction, I found my table, and circled it as I looked for an open chair. There were none. I gave up and sat at a table which, I was told by a bridesmaid, had room for me. Later on, I stopped by my assigned table to chat with a friend – one of many who were seated there – and her seatmate confided in us that she’d been assigned to the table where the bridesmaid had put me. With a charming smile, she told us that she hadn’t wanted to sit with her schoolmates and had opted to sit at the hipper table instead. That explained why I spent the wedding seated with people who knew each other but didn’t know me. The silence around my seat would have been deafening, if the band hadn’t been.
This is why, as I sit at another wedding listening to half of my new acquaintances  discuss how much better their own weddings were, and the other half discuss their recent maladies, I grin. Truly, I find it hard to listen because I know that I was placed at this table and I can’t stop wondering why. I’m just not sure if I’m the obligatory invitee, oddball friend, or that secret quirky relative. What I do know is that Emily Post would be proud, and the bridal family relieved.
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Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

The adage “Feed a cold, starve a fever,” is useful only in theory. The probability that I’ll get a cold when I have a fully stocked pantry is similar to the likelihood of all the oxygen atoms in my apartment congregating in one corner of the living room: extremely low. For that reason, I prefer not to become sick.

Unfortunately, I still get colds. When I do contract something which creates congestion and saps my energy, I drag my beleaguered self to the store in an attempt to prevent further damage to my immune system.  I shuffle wearily down the aisles, hoping someone will take pity on me and send me home while they do my shopping. That has yet to happen.

Ideally, I’d purchase nourishing soups and vitamin-rich orange juice. In an effort to save my strength, I attempt to purchase only items which are directly between myself, those objectives, and the check-out. The orange juice at my local store is as far from the cashier as possible. This sends me dragging my feet past rows of groceries, with the simple goal of attaining a bottle of ‘premium Florida orange juice’. ‘Premium Florida orange juice’ is not a phrase I use in daily life, but with my immune defenses down and the effort to stay upright, half-heard tv-commercials – this one from Florida’s Natural – take over. So I make my way slowly through the store, brain-power dedicated to moving my feet, and settle down in front of the orange juice selection. Once I no longer need to concentrate on moving, I can focus on selecting orange juice and ignoring those snappy tv jinggles. The orange juice which looks like it has the most added vitamins, not the one with the best tagline, will be coming home with me.

Last time I was sick, I couldn’t find any pre-made soups, so I went home with just the orange juice. On my weary way toward the cashier, I picked up some crackers and fig newtons, items shelved within grabbing distance.  As I stood in line, I realized that the tissues were at the front of the store where I’d begun my journey. I looked in their direction, and calculated the possibility of picking up a box and still having enough energy to make my own home. I stayed in line, paid for my groceries, and made it home.

The next time I came in, feeling much better, I searched the store for pre-made soups. This time, able to move without urging on my feet, I found them. They’re five feet from the orange juice. Feeling well, I mapped out a plan for my next bout of illness; a plan which would allow me to pick up tissues, soup, and orange juice, and still have enough energy to get home. The only thing I forgot to calculate was the energy it would take me to get to the store.

I  have a cold and my pantry will be empty within a day. Thankfully, I have a plan: Who wants to do my grocery shopping?