Recently, I went to a Seattle bar hosting festivities in honor of the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
As my friend and I ate our haggis and enjoyed the bagpipes, someone volunteered himself as company. A man in his sixties slid into our booth and beamed his red cheeks and full white beard straight at me. He was dressed in full Scottish regalia. “I’m wondering if you’d be willing to help me out with a poetry reading?”
Maybe, I said. I mean, if it’s for poetry—what do you need me to do?
Then he offered me a mouse mask.
This circa-1930s rubber contraption with big Mickey-Mouse ears and a black-bulb nose.
And yes, I’m a shy introvert. And a mouse mask does seem about the best way to point that out to the whole bar. Kind of like slapping a dunce cap on the dumbest kid in class.
I mean, who does that?
The red-cheeked man strode up to the microphone. “I’m going to read from Robert Burns, ‘To a Mouse.’ And there’s a brave soul out there who has agreed to help me. MC? Are you out there? MC? MC?”
Now, as a side note: I’ve dived under many a table in my day.
And I am never too proud to do it again.
The security of shadows and the coolness under oak tables and the ooze of old beer—
So I went for it.
Didn’t matter that the hot bartender I have a crush on was standing in plain view, mixing a drink and watching me. I didn’t care. Anything to get out of wearing that mouse mask.
So I flopped stomach-first onto the booth. I slid one leg under. And then my head.
Only to discover that the table was too narrow to give much coverage.
I feel I should say at this point that I’d had only two sips of whiskey.
This is just what I do. I dive behind bushes, counters, walls, doors, and—you guessed it—under tables.
And yes, I realize a truly mature adult would have just said, “A mouse mask? No, thank you. I came here for the party.”
But honestly, how many truly mature adults get asked to slap a mouse mask on, complete with a black bulbous nose, and stand up in front of a crowd—while some old man addresses a poem to you?
I mean, do you have a toolkit at the ready for such a circumstance?
I sure don’t.
Or actually, I do. I have one. And that table failed me. Fail, table.
I had to find another exit strategy. There was the kitchen. But that seemed risky. I don’t know the staff all that well. So finally, my friend and I shot each other a glance and read minds. I split for the bathroom.
She stayed behind, so when he came up to the failed table, she said sweetly, “I’m sorry. She thought she had more time. I think she’s in the bathroom.”
The Scottish-poetry fan took back his mouse mask and asked for another “sweet young lady” to volunteer.
And why must this mouse be female anyway?
But yes, I learned a powerful lesson that night. When the table fails you, hightail it for the bathroom. Second-best bet.
But for my part, I still prefer a broad, deep table. Preferably heavy. Preferably with ample legroom. Preferably with a very long, very thick tablecloth.