Rites and Rituals, Shaped by the Times
We were regulars at a certain neighborhood restaurant and always knew the food to be good and the service efficient, but on a Friday night a few weeks ago things just were not right. Service was slow; very slow. The place was packed with customers, but the wait staff and kitchen crews were too few.
For all the setbacks I still had high hopes for the meal itself. I knew the chef’s work and he is excellent, but not this night. The seasoning; the temperature; the accouterments—they were all off, not by a lot but more than expected from the place.
So, we persisted. At the end, it even took a while to get the server’s attention so we could pay our check. I will go back to the restaurant though. I knew this night was a fluke, I just did not understand why.
On the way out, the chef came to wave goodbye and then confided in me. “We got slammed tonight.” For months, chefs had been staring at near empty dining rooms. Staff sizes were kept down. Menus were cut back, but on this night there was an unexpected barrage. There was no holiday; no big party; just lots of tables suddenly in demand. What happened?
“Second shots!” The chef explained. By that day the state was several weeks into its COVID-19 vaccination program. The numbers worked out that many people had just gotten the follow-up needle. After a year of feeling suppressed folks now felt that they had a weapon against COVID. Not one, but two shots had been fired. Finally, something to celebrate.
Last week I got an e-mail from a friend who told me that after getting their second shot he and the wife had taken a long delayed trip to visit family of the East Coast. First though, on the night of the final shot—they had dinner at Antoine’s.
There is still one more victory lap that needs to happen in our lives. Saturday I was watching the coverage of Prince Philip’s funeral. No one knows how to do ceremony better than the British, who can master pomp under any circumstance. What struck me though was the masks. Sure, I knew the pandemic is worldwide and everyone has to conform to precautions, but it was jarring to see the Queen of the British Empire dressed in a black hat, black dress, matching shoes and gloves and wearing a black mask. Only her eyes were visible. The rest of the entourage followed form—the men in elegant morning suits; the ladies in mourning black with appropriate hats; and the military dazzling in their ceremonial uniforms with splashes of red and gold. All wore masks.
Even the funeral itself, which was scaled down to minimize crowds, bowed to COVID.
Last week, Pfizer executives said that a third booster shot might be needed within the next year and possibly periodically. Britain is no stranger to facing combat on a global scale, neither is the Unites States. Maybe one day soon all nations can stand as allies in ripping off our masks; raising our flags and making reservations—if not for dinner, at least for high tea.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 9:30 A.M. SUNDAYS.WYES-TV, CH. 12.