Once or twice a week Danny and I have lunch together at Chesapeake Bagel (it's changed to something else but we still call it Chesapeake). Usually it's not that crowded and we're able to snag a booth, spread out the paper and enjoy commenting on the state of the world and progress of Britney's divorce proceedings.
Today however was different. It was crowded. Boothless people nervously balanced their little plastic baskets while posturing for a table. An old lady and I were locked in subtle combat, hovering, circling like vultures near a booth where four women were packing up their things. She ended up with it. I could have scooted in, but after last Monday's parking incident my Karma is in a delicate state.
So I grabbed the only table left. It was one of the larger ones. Not huge, but you can definitely seat more than 2 people comfortably. Three quarters of the way through our meal a small old woman approached us, "Do you mind if I sit here?"
Of course, we scooted over, crinkled our newspapers into a smaller corner of the tabletop.
"It's just that we come here every Thursday and usually use this table for about 8 people…" she added.
I went to grab my purse, Danny started to clear the table for her book club. "No, no don't get up" she said, "I'm not trying to rush you." We lowered back into our chairs.
Then she sat down with her book, the one I assume she brought in case she arrived before her friends, except she didn't read it. She just sat there, making us incredibly uncomfortable.
I calculated how long I had to sit there to make it look like I wasn't allowing myself to be rushed out while at the same time getting the hell out of there as soon as possible.
As Danny and I ran next door to grab some groceries we marveled at the woman's ability.
"So," Danny said, "That woman had like, complete mind control over me."
"I know!" I said "I was completely ready to obey her every command. Move, leave, sit, stay…how did she do that?"
Here's what our analysis yielded:
The recipe for getting people to leave a table using the old lady mind control method:
1. Start with a Reasonable request (can I share this overly large table with you?)
2. Add a dash of guilt, (we usually fit EIGHT whole people at this table)
3. Add more reasonable (no, no really, don't get up. I'm not rushing you)
4. Throw in a bit of tension (sit quietly and stare at the people you wish to leave)
I have to admit I'm a little easy in this regard. I am a people pleaser to the very core of my being. I get a knot in my stomach if I think anyone is mad at me or thinks I did something rude. And maybe I would have reacted differently if the person was my own age and not an old woman who I feel extra incentive to be nice to.
I think she was brilliant actually. She wanted her usual table and got it. She was not shy about it. She was not rude and made us just uncomfortable enough to get what she needed, a secured space for her weekly book meeting with her friends.
So bagel man, send a round with extra cream cheese to the Thursday women's book club, it's on me.