On lunch break in Brooklyn, I walked past a park and saw a bunch of schoolkids playing during recess. They had no equipment other than a ball and no teacher or monitor telling them what to do, but they obviously were having fun playing a game of their own creation where one kid stretched out on the ground and the others had to bounce the ball over her prone figure.
Who doesn’t remember recess fondly — and these kinds of unsupervised moments are the most memorable.
Last night I got to my hotel at about 9:30 p.m. after a terrible travel day. I hadn’t had dinner and it was raining cats and dogs outside, so I decided to just take my book and stick to the hotel bar for a bite to eat before turning in.
At this point, alarm bells should have been sounding. Normally I won’t eat a late meal at a hotel bar because it almost always is unpleasant. People go to hotel bars to drink. They don’t need to drive home, and they often rationalize an extra drink as helping them to sleep in a strange room. So if you get there late, you’re likely to encounter people who have been overserved.
Taking a book to a hotel bar is also a mistake. Hotel bars aren’t well suited to quiet reading. And there is something about a solo traveler with a book that seems to provoke other bar patrons to unwanted interaction. Whether they feel sorry for you and think you are crying out for human companionship, or are liquored up and believe their conversation with you will be the highlight of your evening, they’re inevitably going to pester you.
Sure enough, when I arrived last night and sat at the bar where the light was best, it didn’t take long. I read my book, and then a boozy woman nearby became intrigued. She was one of those types who seemed to laugh at everything and whose braying howls had already intruded on my mental space. “Hey, how can you read when the World Series is on? Whatcha reading?” Curiously, I didn’t feel like having a deep discussion about my book with a braying stranger, so I said I wasn’t much interested in the Series this year. Fortunately, the conversation petered out quickly and ended when my food arrived, and I gratefully went back to my book.
With the Mets getting pounded, the couple went reeling back to their room soon after, to be replaced by another couple — who asked exactly the same questions. That discussion also was blessedly brief and ended when the woman had an incredibly loud cell phone conversation, apparently heedless of normal tenets of civilized behavior that suggest that a personal phone call shouldn’t occur a few feet from strangers who simply want to be left alone.
So here’s a tip for hotel bar patrons everywhere. The readers among us are perfectly content to enjoy our books. We’re not sad or lonely or pining for human interaction — we just think our books are likely to be more interesting than a conversation with someone who’s had a few belts too many.