Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eat, drink, and be merry! (for tomorrow we...never mind)

Last evening our neighbors Peggy and Rube (that's his real name, not short for Reuben or anything else) drove around the corner and rang our doorbell. Then the four of us set out in their white Mercury Marquis for a local "meat and three" restaurant to participate in what the sign just inside our subdivision's entrance said was Senior Night Out. For you non-Southerners, a "meat and three" is sort of like your neighborhood bar and grill without the bar, or a Greek deli without the Greeks (I'm thinking of a great Greek restaurant in Queens, New York, at this very moment), or homestyle cooking without the home, or Mom and Pop cooking without...well, you get the picture. It really defies description unless you are Southern, and then no description is necessary. The chief attraction for our group was probably portion size (large), sodium content (low), and price range (very reasonable, with a ten per cent discount for seniors). Let's just say that if haute cuisine is what you are seeking, you probably won't find it at a "meat and three." For you non-Southerners again, three is the number of vegetables you get to select from a long list to go with your meat.

Twenty people showed up, which was a pretty good turnout, I thought. Sixteen of us were seated at a long table in a room reserved for us, and the other four were at an "overflow" table in the corner. Our subdivision, which is actually two sister subdivisions built by the same developer, has around 400 houses. Most of them are owned by young couples with growing families. In our context, "Senior" means basically that you are no longer young and your family is no longer growing through any efforts of your own. Our baby will be forty next month and Peggy said theirs was fifty-one, so the four of us qualified. We sat next to folks we hadn't met previously, and proceeded to get to know them better. Twenty out of 400 may not sound like a good turnout to you, but twenty out of whatever portion of that number are seniors (and I'm not sure what that figure is) seemed very respectable.

The seating in the restaurant may not have been upper class, but the seating in Rube's car definitely was. Let me explain. Ellie sat in the front seat with Rube, and I sat in the back seat with Peggy. We fell into this seating arrangement more or less naturally; Peggy was aware that knee problems prevent Ellie from climbing easily into the back seat of a car and graciously took the back seat herself. According to Vance Packard, who wrote a book called The Status Seekers back in 1959, this is how upper class couples travel, except when a husband and wife take separate vehicles altogether. When middle class couples travel together, according to Packard, one married couple sits in the front and the other married couple sits in the back. And in travel among the lower classes, the two husbands sit together in the front and the two wives sit in the back. Don't get mad at me; I'm just quoting Vance Packard. He wrote back in the days when people also looked to Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt for guidance in matters of etiquette. Those days are long gone.

The Status Seekers also includes a chapter entitled "The Long Road From Pentecostal To Episcopalian," but that is a subject for another day.

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