"So, is this a wedding up in Waitsfield?" I asked the two couples riding in my taxi. It was early afternoon.
Oh, that was dumb, I upbraided myself. Though they were nicely attired, their duds were too casual for a wedding.
"No, we have reservations for a dinner," explained the blond-haired woman in the back. "It's a farm-to-table thing, apparently, put on by the farm. This was a wedding gift we got last year. Four tickets to the event. Woo-hoo!"
"Nice," I said, but glumly. I had skipped lunch, so I pinned my unbecoming jealousy on my hunger. Shaking it off, I said, "I bet you it'll be sumptuous. Probably course after course."
"It should be," said the man, who was riding shotgun. "It was a present, so I'm not certain, but I think it was $200 a head. Even with the free wines, that's not cheap."
I'm riding with the millennials, I thought, sighing. Perhaps early thirties, childless and living the high life. The spot judgment was uncharitable, but, again, I was hungry and jealous. There's the title of my autobiography, I thought — Hungry and Jealous.
"So you folks are from New York City, I understand. What do you do for work?" I asked.
My seatmate replied, "I produce and direct online video ads. That's where I met my wife. She was an actress on a shoot. Do you ever read romance novels?"
"I can't say that I do. Maybe once, I'm thinking." (Though I am somewhat the girly-man in my cultural proclivities, even I draw the line at romance novels.)
"Well, Janice is the go-to model for that genre." I could hear the husbandly pride in his voice. "It's always her and some Fabio-looking dude."
"You don't say," I said, intrigued. I looked up in the rearview mirror to take a gander, adjusting it so both the women were in sight.
"Janice is the blonde," her husband clarified.
She was a stunner. That is, if your tastes run to blond, wide-set-blue-eyed, voluptuous sirens.
"Well, both of these women are quite beautiful," I observed, diplomatically finessing a sticky social scenario. Yes, I do have skills.
"Why, thank you," said the brunette non-Janice woman.
"So, Janice," I said, steering onto the highway toward Waterbury, "you probably have to supply endless variations on pouting and longing."
Janice chuckled. "Yes, sir, I have a million of 'em."
The two couples chatted amiably among themselves (they were all big foodies, no surprise) for the highway portion of the trip. When we took the exit into downtown Waterbury, we found it bustling — so heartening to see after the ravages visited on the town by Tropical Storm Irene.
In Waitsfield, after a couple of turns off Route 100, we reached the place that was obviously our destination. Scores of cars had been parked, or were being parked, in a huge field adjacent to a couple of buildings. From the flow of walkers, it appeared that the dinner would be served in the large, well-appointed barn. I dropped off my people, confirming that I'd be back by eight unless they called to change the time.
I returned to Burlington, ate a non-sumptuous dinner, watched a few innings of the Red Sox game and took a couple of local fares. Just before eight, I arrived at the farm again, and soon my customers piled in for the ride back to town. They wanted to hit a downtown bar before returning to their B&B, and I suggested Rí Rá.
It turned out that Janice was in — as the characters in a classic romance novel might remark — "high dudgeon." Her neighbor at the communal dinner table had insulted her mightily. She was also buzzed on the wine, which punched up her dramatic retelling of the slight.
"OK, OK," she began, leaning forward in her back window seat. "So, you had to pass the bowls of food only to the left, which was a middle-aged woman and her husband. I say to the husband, 'Tell me the story of how you two met.' And he goes, 'At a restaurant.' I go, 'There has to be more than that. I want details,' and the wife is like, 'You ask too many questions.' My jaw, like, drops, and she adds, 'You're really quite unlikable.'"
I didn't entirely buy this story, but in the interest of camaraderie I said, "That's so rude. And so un-Vermont-like. I mean, jeez."
Janice's husband and their friends were laughing uproariously. Her husband said, "So, for the rest of the night, we were like, 'Janice, you are quite unlikable.' It was hilarious."
We made it to B-town, and I dropped them off. A few hours later, close to midnight, I picked them back up for the return to their home away from home, which turned out to be not a real B&B but an Airbnb. As this is the hotel equivalent of an Uber cab, you can safely guess how I feel about it. (I know, I know — I'm waging a rearguard action against an inexorable force.)
Surprise — Janice was brimming with new indignation, the particulars of which she couldn't wait to share with me.
"At that bar, the Red Circle or something, the bouncer was such a dick! We were waiting to get in, and he kept yelling at me about keeping within the line. What is this — kindergarten? So I would, like, just inch up to his precious line and barely step on it, and he would start yelling at me again. He even threatened to call the cops. For God's sake, I was just playing around, having a good time."
I stayed mum, because what I felt like saying — actually, like screaming — was "My goodness, you are unlikable!" I had the feeling that Janice was used to people kowtowing to her, maybe all her life. And with this sense of entitlement, she'd evolved — if that's the word — into a full-fledged brat! Someone, early on, should have put her in the corner for a long time-out, and now it was too late.
Then I felt badly, because I'm a great believer in kind thoughts. In my experience, thoughts have a real effect, and I struggle daily to keep mine positive. Janice's behavior was putting me to the test.
All of this, of course, didn't stop me from googling the woman when I got home that night. Sure enough, there she was, all heaving cleavage and throbbing lips. Poor Fabio, I thought. Just wait 'til he discovers what he's in for.
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.