Monday night at a bar on Brickell and it’s quiet, about 10:30, and a woman comes in with a small dog. The dog is wearing a service vest but the doesn’t seem all that well-trained. Every time a server walks by with a dish the dog pulls at its leash to follow. Barks now and then.
The woman’s a regular and the bar tenders greet her by name and seem to all be making a point of coming up and lavishing attention on her, “hi how are you” and “you’re looking good,” but they’re talking with like the weird egregious jollity we sometimes reserve for the very-very elderly.
I’m sitting a couple stools over with my notebook and I get kinda snooty about this woman because I remember what a headache it was, working at a restaurant, when we’d have somebody come in with their dog and insist it was a trained service animal even though the thing was barking nonstop, jumping at other customers, creating a nuisance. And it was against the law to really challenge them on it, so we just had to let them sit there for an hour while the dog screamed and flailed and the people at surrounding tables asked to be moved.
This woman beside me is well-dressed and made-up and very pretty and because of this I’m figuring that the dog is like an accoutrement and that she (i.e. the owner) is lying and the service vest is fake.
I focus on my notebook.
A few minutes later there’s something like commotion to my left and when I look over I see that the dog owner is in a heated conversation with the bar tender, whose name is Mari, and she’s leaning forward with her chin close to the bar and glaring at two women sitting on the other side of this oval-shaped bar and she’s saying to Mari, “just tell them to stop,” in response to which Mari puts up her palms, like take it easy, but gets real stern and says, “Jane, I’m sorry, I’m not doing this with you tonight: those people are not laughing at you, they’re talking about stupid shit, I don’t even know what they’re talking about, but it’s not you.”
“Mari, they’re laughing at me, I can tell.” She’s feverish, wide-eyed, urgent. Almost a caricature of very sincere paranoia. “People don’t laugh like that, people don’t cover their mouths when they laugh.”
Mari turns and looks at the women across the bar, looks back with a cocked brow and, lowering her voice, says to the dog owner, “Jane, I think that’s just an Asian thing.”