When Excy and I lived back east, we were invited to dinner one night at the parent's house of one of his childhood friends. This couple were 'upper-crust,' related in fact, to the Kennedy's, so had a bit of that blue-blood pedigree. I was looking forward to the evening, because Excy had told me a few fun stories. He described how it had felt as a kid to shoot an 'elephant gun,' that the elder man had kept from safaris, and described their mushroom farm. If nothing else, I felt these people, my parent's age, would be delightfully eccentric.
Little did I know I was about to enter into the play/movie Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, whereas I was unfortunately to be cast as the Sandy Dennis character. We arrived at the appointed time and were ushered into the living room. They had a drink tray full of old-fashions and whisky sours, both noticably strong. Excy and Mr & Mrs commenced with the small talk, catching up on the goings-on, and of their son (Mrs saying in no uncertain terms he wasn't living up to her wishes for his potential). As we chatted on the sofa, she proceeded to pass a tray of saltines with pate on top...I declined and was about to pass them along to Mr, seated at my right, who had extended his hand, saying, "Well, I'd like..."
Mrs slapped his hand away. "They're NOT for you!" She snapped.
I took the tray and offered it to him before handing it on to Excy.
After more dull talk where Mrs droned on, I turned towards Mr and asked what his interests were, now that they were retired. He perked up and began describing an eleborate train set and miniature landscape he had set up in the basement when Mrs cut him off sharply: "NO ONE is INTERESTED in your TOY trains!"
"Oh, no, it sounds great," I protested. "My dad and brother ran trains in our basement and it was a lot of fun!"
Mrs sniffed and turned away. "Don't let him bore you," she warned.
We continued to talk, and drink, and talk, and drink, until finally in desparation I ate some of those awful saltine things, and as time marched well beyond the cocktail hour(s) I began to think we had misunderstood the invitation and weren't expected for dinner after all. I'm not much of a drinker, and two of anything is my limit regardless, and I noticed Mrs getting more and more red-faced and belligerant and elaborate in her insults towards Mr.
Just as I was considering grabbing Excy and making a tackful exit, Mrs trudged away. Fifteen minutes later, she reappeared in the doorway and said dinner was 'on the table.' I asked her how I could help and she flicked her hand. Walking into the dining room I saw four small TV trays ringing the walls with various hot-plates on them. On each bubbled some interesting-looking stuff. I'm not sure what we ate, really. It wasn't very edible. I've been in situations where the food has been horrid, but the company made up for it by far, so it didn't matter; I just ate a bit and pushed things around the plate. The company this time? Needless to say, this wasn't one of those times.
Halfway through this seemingly endless meal, the son made an appearance, but from the way Mrs lit into him, I'm pretty certain he regretted making the effort. Finally, finally, five and a half hours after we arrived, we found an opening and left them imbibing some after-dinner liquor. We stumbled out the door.
I am a big believer in writing thank-you notes, but this time, I told Excy I was afraid to, because I'd rather have her think me uncouth and not invite me back! The next day Excy's cousin heard of our evening and shook his head in resignation, saying he and his wife had a disasterous dinner there, too. He looked at me knowingly.
"I never want to go back," I said.
"I know, so did we," he replied.
"So what did you do?"
"I was so drunk and quesy from the food, I took two steps out their front door and threw up in the bushes."
As horrifying as this sounds, we understood immediately how it would happen, and agreed it had actually been a rather brilliant solution.