For a while there around the latest turn-of-the-century, I’d frequent Matt Murphy’s Pub in Brookline Village, where the host would seat you and your dinner companion at tables with perfect strangers, who don’t have any obligation to welcome you to the table or even acknowledge your existence.
Once, my wife and I went there and were seated beside a famous historian, who was having dinner with his daughter. I got my wife’s attention and made eyes at her; she furrowed her brow at me in return: “What?” As discreetly as I could, I tried to get her to notice who we were sharing the table with, gesturing with my eyes and making little jerky head motions. I could tell she had no idea what I was trying to convey. Finally, I wrote on a napkin that we were sharing a table with…you know…wink, wink (and his daughter, which was really of no consequence to either of us.)
Our dinner was now spent listening to this important man converse with his attractive twenty-something female offspring, instead of concentrating on own lives while drinking pints of draught beer and eating rabbit pie. They had sat down not long before us, and there was plenty of time to eavesdrop during our own silences. The historian was going on and on about something, and his daughter had grown not just bored, but actually really irritated. The famous professor was talking philosophically about the nature of love and said “Now, if you’d like to talk about romance—”
“I wouldn't,” snapped his dinner mate. At that moment, it suddenly occurred to me that the woman, who was about 30 years younger than the historian, was very likely not his daughter after all. And here I’d been wondering why the two were dining in this little pub way across town, and also why they hadn’t thought to invite mom.