Table manners

By Frederick Mordi

Table 2

“Stop making an ass of yourself,” she snapped suddenly. “I can’t stand the way you eat! If you can’t use the knife and the fork the proper way, can’t you at least, use your head? I mean your hands?”

It took him one full minute to digest what she was saying and another 30 seconds before he could summon enough courage to raise his head slowly from his food. He had never been so embarrassed all his life. He wished the ground could open up and swallow him, to save him from this humiliation.

 

“Are you talking to me?” he finally growled, even though it was obvious to everyone that she was addressing him. He was not prepared to stomach this insult.

 

Their eyes locked briefly and he gave her a murderous look that could have caused anyone to develop instant indigestion. But the woman was not prepared to have her healthy appetite spoilt on that particular day. Her frame leaves no one in doubt that she enjoys eating.

 

“Of course I am talking to you!” she spoke loudly enough for even passers-by along the ever busy street to hear. “You lack table manners! The way you eat reminds one of a dog!”

 

She snorted with disgust for good measure and hissed.

 

It took a superhuman effort for him to keep his shirt on. He was burning slowly like a fuse that seemed like it could blow up any minute. When they could not bear this spectacle any longer, the customers and the saucy service girls burst into laughter. They laughed and laughed until tears rolled down their checks. Their laughter stung him like a bee. He fumed with impotent anger.

 

He glared at her helplessly again, undecided how to get even with the corpulent lady, who was sipping her coke in utter peace. She had ordered a second helping and had inquired from one of the giggling service girls, if there was a vacant table available. She waved her left hand in front of her nose—a gesture meant to convey a feeling of utter contempt for him.

 

He knew he had to leave immediately before he lost what was left of his dignity. Slowly, he pushed his half-eaten food to one side, sorely tempted to empty the contents of the plate on her cold, hard face. That would have assuaged his pain to an extent. However, he managed to pull himself together, having obviously weighed the consequences of his intended action. Discretion, as they say, is the better part of valour.

 

“She’s right, you know,” a middle-aged man, who was exploring a large piece of roasted chicken thigh with a knife and a fork held between his fingers, delicately, interjected, after the laughter had subsided. “You should have gone for amala and ewedu, instead of exhibiting your obvious deficiency in culinary expertise.”

 

This remark triggered more prolonged laughter. As he wheeled round angrily to confront the interloper, the sour-faced restaurateur waded in:

 

“Please, please, gentlemen, I don’t want any trouble in my restaurant,” she pleaded. “If you don’t know how to use knife and fork, you should have said so! We have enough spoons and water for you to wash your hands with!”

 

Her remarks sparked off another round of hysterics. He regarded her coldly, stood up abruptly, and stormed out of the restaurant, after settling his bills. He did not wait for his change. The laughter was by now, quite uncontrollable.

 

“Why didn’t he just walk across the road to one of those bukas under the bridge, to eat, instead of messing himself up here?” The lady who started it all, asked no one in particular.

 

“What a glutton! Could have eaten a horse, you know…” the man said.

 

“Village boy!” she added tartly.

T10

“You brought all this wahala to yourself,” his colleagues blamed him when he recounted his ordeal at the restaurant to them.

 

“Yes, serves you right,” cuts in one of them. “Next time don’t go near Standard Restaurant if your standard is not high enough!”

 

They turned him into a laughing stock.

 

“Why didn’t you settle for fufu and egusi eh?” said another. “You could have saved yourself all this embarrassment. “Come on, you just wanted to show off, didn’t you?”

 

“Was there a girl in the picture?” demanded another cheekily.

 

He scowled at the mirthful lot and made for the door. But as he threw the door open, he received the shock of his life. There, standing before him, was a pretty girl who held up his wallet and identity card for him to see. There was a warm smile on her face as she said:

 

“I believe these are for you.”

 

He was tongue-tied for the first time in his life as he stretched his hand to pick the items from her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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