Tea Room Withdrawal
By Doni Joszef
I’m walking at a slower pace than my instinctual impatience tends to prefer. Between baby strollers and wheel chairs, the hotel lobby seems more like a multi-generational gymnasium than the luxurious lounge it was designed to be. Navigating this lobby is my mission, the tea room is my destination.
The shortest distance between here and there is a straight line, which just so happens to be clogged by infants, and elders, and the outnumbered caretakers of both former and latter. There appears to be no express lines, no side roads, no shortcuts by which to expedite this journey. Civilized obedience to the laws of social etiquette becomes the unspoken modus operandi of this slow motion trek across this swarming sea of child-rearers and chit-chatters.
To ease my sense of self-consciousness, I eavesdrop on the complaints of a nearby woman, clearly distraught by what appears from her facial expressions to be a cosmic catastrophe, but what turns out, in actuality, to be a slight catering casualty (that being a shortage of viennese crunch in the tea room). She insists that it’s not the viennese crunch, but the principle of the matter which maddens her so profusely. What exactly such a “principle” entails is subject to speculation, but that’s not my primary concern at the moment.
In the backdrop hums a fusion-techno-dubstep-electronica rendition of Hava Nagila – which just goes to show how hip Jewish music can be – which, of course, is not very hip at all. The only people who seem even remotely entertained are those of an age which can best be described as ripe, with a musical taste which can best be described as non-existent. But that doesn’t stop them from getting down and funky. One of the perks of being old is that you no longer feel obliged to defend your own ego. After all, you have bigger things to worry about – like getting a good seat at the Bingo tournament, or reminding your grandkids how often they forget to call you.
But I’m still young, and cool, and confident, and ever so awkwardly aware of how awkward I feel. Consumed in my concoction of social-stickiness & self-consciousness, I stumble through the hotel lobby, pretending not to notice who’s pretending not to notice me notice them notice me. When I happen to make eye contact with people I know via Facebook, I smile and nod with the least amount of enthusiasm imaginable, so as to acknowledge their existence, while avoiding the vulnerably of their direct gaze.
By the time I reach my destination, I no longer care for cotton candy or carrot cake or multi-colored cocktails. I feel drained, dizzy, and discombobulated. I wonder why I even came here in the first place – but this doesn’t stop me from making the same rounds, hour after hour, day after day.
Eventually, the posh pampering of Passover paradise comes to a close. At home, there are no bellhops or busboys, no techno-dancers or tea rooms. There are no luxurious lobbies or lavish lunches.
There’s just me and my family…
…and a cabinet full of viennese crunch.