The name of the restaurant: “The Prime.” The only one of three choices on the ship requiring diners to make hard-to-get reservations. The Prime had a more stringent dress code than the other two, being more formal than the other restaurants on board. This small restaurant with its strict policies somehow translated to cruising guests into feelings of exclusivity.
We were fortunate enough to gain access to this chosen, selective spot, having planned ahead. As we entered we saw a room filled with well dressed, sophisticated, bejeweled fellow epicures.
We were clearly in elite, exclusive company. Or so it seemed at first impressions.
However when our eyes grew accustomed to the darkened room we saw that small world in a different light.
The elegant couple seated across the room was drinking heavily, and with each sip seemed to find more cruel and more devastating insults to fling at each other. This was not a simple misunderstanding or lovers’ quarrel, but a summation of years of fury and anger.
My husband looked at me and said,
“This feels like a rerun of a performance of Edward Albee’s play, “George and Martha.”
“Yes, I said: I can still picture Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the leading roles of the movie version.”
At the table next to them sat a family of three, a mature couple with their adult Down Syndrome son: the young man hopefully not understanding what the shouting was about at his neighbors’ table.
Near us was an old couple, handicapped and needing one walker and one wheelchair to be mobile. What a tribute to them to still seek the pleasure of a foreign vacation even though their lives were difficult to maneuver.
“I really admire them,” I said. “They are making a noble effort to make the most of their lives; they’re not just sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.”
At a large table in the center of the room was a group of gregarious people making their presence known and conversation impossible not to hear. Their discussion seemed to center around the newly-published book of the author at their table. The writer constantly tried to focus the conversation to her book when the subject changed. After polite initial interest, her table mates kept trying to shift from the topic of her book to a battle about politics. The battle raged throughout their entire meal.
At the entrance to the restaurant an abrasive woman, clearly used to giving orders and getting her way, began a shouting match with the Maitre’d when he denied her a table without her having a reservation. He stood his ground, politely saying,
“I’m so sorry, ma’am, but most guests made reservations on line before even boarding the ship. There is nothing I can do for you. We simply have no table to offer you.”
A small discrete room, a rich microcosm of illusion was, in reality, a telling microcosm of pain, disappointment and troubled lives.