The Scarlet Oak Tavern is currently one of the most popular places on the South Shore and it's as tough to get a table on a Tuesday night as it is on a Friday. If you don’t have reservations or arrive after 4 p.m., you’re going to be standing around for a very long time. Still, many people try their luck in the bar where seating is first-come-first served. It's an honor system that nobody honors because, let's face it, people are hungry. Unfortunately, this has created an "every man for himself" kind of atmosphere in there. Regardless of how many times other patrons smile at you and say “excuse me,” beneath the polite exteriors are bloodthirsty predators, seething with resentment, jockeying for coveted tables and barstools and especially the half moon leather booths in the corners that accommodate up to six people.
This weekend, six burds crowded around a high top that barely accommodated our olives and focaccia, let alone wine glasses. Still, we were among the lucky ones. LPD noticed a couple at one of the half moon booths (spacehogs) was finishing up their dinners. She also noticed another couple standing next to them who’d noticed the very same thing. LPD, mama bear in full effect, walked over and brokered a deal: "Give us the booth, we’ll give you our table.” She pointed to the five of us, smushed together, but a pregnant Auntie -- in full-on mama stance with palms on the small of her back – likely sealed the deal. LPD somehow roped our waitress into the deal as well and within moments, we were passing our co-conspirators in a hand-slapping victory line and sliding into the booth.
Another group who’d been eyeing the booth began circling us like territorial wildebeests. Their faces smiled but their eyes were threatening us with steak knives. To the victors go the spoils. A round of turtlenecks! A bellydancer! A turkey sandwich in a blender! We dug into some Scarlet salads and steak tips and Auntie enjoyed her third meal of the evening, a side of squash that she couldn’t finish after we remarked it looked like a baby food.
The view from the booth was much different. People were getting louder and more animated and less able to perform fine motor skills. We realized that when you’re waiting so long to eat, and standing around drinking, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to sway. This scene played out in all around us but the ladies loo was something else entirely “It’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show in there.”
A posse of ladies, 50-somethings, completely pickled and achingly well groomed had taken over the restroom. They were hanging in there with their drinks, sneaking cigarettes and barking at each other from beneath the stalls. One woman stood at the sink holding a glass of red wine in one hand while furiously brushing her hair with the other. I walked up to wash my hands and noticed a tiny nest of hair had accumulated in the sink.
She looked down at me, swaying, wine spilling out over the sides of the glass.
“It’s crazy here tonight, huh?”
“Yes,” I said.
I don’t know what the ‘fuck’ retort was all about, but I slunk away without drying my hands because I was scared. I exited the ladies room where a very tan man with shocking white hair was leaning against the wall outside the door. He wore a skin tight red, white and blue parka and was holding a martini. He nodded his head up and down as women came and went: “Hi.. hi… hi…hi…hi…hi.”
Who said people watching is no good in the burbs?
Cameo noted the bathroom ladies will likely be us in 10 years. Either way, we will live to see another night at this Serengeti of the South Shore.