After-dark, weird behaviour at a personal level doesn’t freak me out any more. People chatting with me for ages and then completely looking through me when they see me in daylight is a regular occurrence. I’ve made peace with the fact that if there is a drunk and disturbed man who is sharing the same time and space location as me, then after midnight he will hit on me. If there is someone who needs to puke, they will find me as if I am a toilet bowl. All this is now par course and the reason I try not to leave my house too often. After my attempt last night to catch a movie and a drink, I’m seeing the wisdom of my anti-social ways.
It began with me wanting to eat my cheesy jalapeno poppers inside the air-conditioned Brio, a café, rather than outside where mosquitoes can bite me while I bite into my poppers. A waiter nodded enthusiastically and told me to go in, saying there was an available table. I walk in. Every table is crammed with people.
Me: “Excuse me, you said you had a table?”
Waiter: “Yes, ma’am. Many tables.” His hand does an elegant Shakespearean sweep to show off the furniture in the café, as he introduces me to the idea of tables.
Me: “But none of them are empty.”
Waiter: “No ma’am. We are all full up.”
Me: “Then why did you tell me there was a table?”
Waiter: “But ma’am, there are tables.”
Me: “But they’re not free!”
Waiter: “No.” He pauses and looks at me for a moment. “We are having a misunderstanding,” he informs me grimly.
Moving on to the cinema. During the interval, I’m sitting quietly waiting for There Will be Blood to start again when, for no reason whatsoever, one of the ushers starts doing a happy dance, complete with hand clapping. He stopped equally abruptly and the usher next to him applauded the performance. “The movie just gets damn sad from here, ya,” the dancer said to his colleague as if that was an explanation.
Post-movie, I went with friends for a drink to Bombay 72º East, a newish “resto-bar” in Juhu which is lit like a bordello in a tacky movie. With floaty curtains and the drumming of pounding music from the bar side, Bombay 72º East attempts to create ambience with some seriously red lighting. I wonder if it would have camouflaged the blood if I’d bludgeoned the waiter. I know I was tempted.
The head waiter, who looked a little bit like a marsupial, stood attentively by a friend’s side as he ordered his drink.
Friend: “I’d like a vodka with tonic, please.”
Waiter: “Certainly, sir.”
Friend: “Smirnoff, please.”
Waiter: “Of course, sir. Then we’ll cancel the vodka?”
Once the equivalence of Smirnoff and vodka has been explained, the gent shimmies over to my side.
Me: “Can I order some drinks, please?”
Waiter: “Yes, ma’am. Water is there.” He called out to one of his chaps to get me water.
Me: “Thank you. I’d like to order some alcohol as well.”
Waiter: “Of course, ma’am. Tell me.”
Me: “Could I have a gin and tonic, please?”
Waiter: “Yes, ma’am. Children over there.” He pointed in the direction of the bar where it sounded like an ancient African tribe was declaring war.
Me: “I said, gin. GIN.”
Waiter: “Yes, ma’am, you can have children over there.”
Me: “No, I don’t want children. I want a gin and tonic.”
Waiter: “Tonic with children, ma’am?” Finally, something seemed a little off to him. “You’re sure?”
Me: “No! I want gin. GIN, with tonic. The alcohol. Not children. No children. Only GIN. With tonic.”
Waiter: “Oh gin! That you can get here only, ma’am.”
As opposed to the bar at Bombay 72º East where you can have children – Conceive them? Deliver them? Do both perhaps? – along with your tonic.
The services sector is supposed to be the backbone of the Indian economy which is growing at mythic rates, apparently. Earning from this sector accounts for 55% of the GDP of the entire country and it appears that putting the boom in the booming service sector are non-financial services, like the hospitality sector to which the kind waiter at Bombay 72º East belongs. The world, we are told, will look to China for goods and to India for services. That’s pretty frightening. A friend did assure us, however, that our transsexual prostitutes on Linking Road look exactly like their compatriots in San Francisco so that’s one aspect of the service sector we’ve got covered. Oh the relief….