by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
Really, I should have known better!  It has been years since we foregathered at a bar for a “Happy Hour”.  What must have I been thinking!
From the outset the arrangement was imprecise, even mildly implausible. When, however, one is on the receiving end of an impromptu invitation it is inappropriate to press too enthusiastically for detail.  Accordingly we rolled with it so to speak.  The initial cause for reflection was the strategic matter of transportation; namely, how would we get there (where indeed were we even going), would we go together, who would drive, who would go with whom? Preferring as I do to have my own vehicle, I offered to chauffeur our hostess (who is a single divorcée) but she succinctly dispelled that proposal by retorting – to my admitted astonishment – that she might be taking others (hitherto unmentioned) in her own vehicle.  Correctly I think, I interpreted that rebuttal as her own defence mechanism for maintaining control of her destiny (for whatever reason, whether obsession or otherwise I am not entirely certain).  Nor do I care. The distance she established sat well with me as an avowed independent. Frankly I’ve done my share of carting people around from one venue to another; and if I am to be perfectly honest I have lost my appetite for hauling about people who’ve been drinking.  Their possible lack of dexterity threatens the hardware.
With that logistical question settled we lapsed into a temporary lull of complacency. But the tranquillity was short-lived. By mid-afternoon we were reminded that there was a Santa Claus parade planned for the area.  Initially we speculated the parade was to be held in nearby Wilbur-by-the-Sea (where we thought we had previously seen some signs advertising the event).  But as we sharpened our recollection – and as decorated trucks and large horses began to amass immediately outside our building on S Atlantic Avenue – it was undeniably clear that the parade was in Daytona Beach Shores, that it was scheduled to commence at 4:00 pm (we then remembered the sign) and it was obviously set to commence precisely where we sat. This presented two concerns: 1) we had been told to rally in the garage at 4:15 pm so that we could get to the Charthouse restaurant on the Halifax River by no later than 4:30 pm in order to beat the crowds which were expected to gather to watch the boat parade on  the River; and, 2) quite apart from the urgency feature, it was questionable whether we would even be able to access the street to get there.  As far as we knew, there was only one way to the mainland across the Halifax River and that was along the identical route of the parade.  Thinking I was onto something I took the precaution of telephoning our hostess to leave a message regarding my concern.  She never responded.
So promptly at 4:15 pm we all assembled as planned in the garage and plotted our tactical options.  There was considerable discussion surrounding which was the best route to take, involving the names of roads which, while somewhat familiar, bore little resembling recognition for us.  Accordingly we effectively dropped out of that conversation and decided instead to follow the lead of our hostess who soon enough was barreling ahead of us, leading the troops from the garage in her Safari-style vehicle.  What ensued resembled a drive through honey, at least for the next twenty minutes, until our hostess abruptly turned right, then right again and then pulled a complete U-turn and headed back down S Atlantic Avenue.  We naturally lost sight of her within minutes because I couldn’t possibly keep up with her dextrous manoeuvers. We ended by relying of our GPS to get us to where we wanted to go.
Though we were the last to do so we did eventually arrive at the yacht club and the Charthouse restaurant.  It was instantly obvious that parking was already at a premium.  Luckily I found a spot almost immediately upon entering the main lot (though the markings were so faint that I felt obliged to straighten the car twice before abandoning it).
When we entered the restaurant perched high above the River we saw in the bar below near the foot of a winding staircase that our confederates had already assembled. They were seated in high chairs around two small, high tables.  The customary introductions and greetings were exchanged.  Some of them had drinks in hand already.  We were invited to peruse the menu of hors d’oeuvres.  Subsequently a waiter arrived and agreed to bring us a bottle of San Pellegrino.  Sereptitiously we two decided between ourselves to forgo the appetizers.  What more than anything became apparent to me was the creeping sensation that I was going deaf. The racket in the bar was so great that I could barely hear a word anyone else said.  Even when I strained to make some meaningful exchange with another of our party it was all I could do to imagine what they had uttered, no matter how earnestly I attempted to discern their message from their facial expression.  Increasingly I felt I had entirely lost the thread of the conversation.  My dilemma was accentuated by the fact that I was positioned in the middle of the two small tables, the group around each of which had effectively split itself off from the other.  While the participants at each table came across as having meaningful communications, I felt rather like a buoy bobbing aimlessly between them.
Eventually I presumed to rise above the impediment by deserting the congregation for the purported purpose of taking a photograph of something out-of-doors.  The bar was at the level of the dock along the River.  I could see the water from where I sat.  My first attempt to spring myself from the joint failed abruptly when I discovered that the two doors I chose were barred.  I retreated to another set further away and thankfully gained entry onto the dock where there were many tables set with other party-goers, sipping and munching.  The evening was very pleasant and my relief at being released from the grips of inaudibility was equally palpable.
Our hostess is ostensibly an extrovert, some might say brash.  She also has a very pleasing appearance.  It occurred to me that, given the convenience of the location and the agreeableness of the surroundings, our hostess might cooperate to permit me to take her photograph on the dock, with the Halifax River in the background.  Though I should not have been surprised, our hostess turns out to be less demonstrable than her demeanour might imply. This I suppose is part and parcel of rudimentary psychiatry; namely, that the seeming proclamation for attention and regard is perhaps a disguise for what is underneath a comparatively modest and retiring soul. So it seems was the case with our hostess.  I practically had to haul her onto the deck; and then it was an arm-twist to get her to pose.  My insistence won the day and I captured a few shots which I think are passable and which speak to the depth of her persona.

When we both returned to our perches on the high stools, the crowd was still as noisy as before.  I had by this time exhausted my interest in propelling myself further.  Apart from a short interlude, the competition for audible air-time was becoming utterly impossible.  Perhaps it was my lingering cold which drained my energy. With the skill of a rehearsed abbreviation, we wrapped up our union with our new American friends.  I paid the waiter cash (and told him to keep the change). Shortly we were in the sorely congested parking lot, wending our way through the traffic, en route to home.  We both declared almost in unison that we were done with being frantic!
Contrary to what might appear to be the case, the celebration of this seemingly tarsome event is not its expiry.  Indeed I am thoroughly grateful for having had the opportunity.  What rings clear is that my endurance of this particular vernacular is over. Like most transitions in life this one hasn’t transpired precipitously.  Years ago, in fact, I began withdrawing from the social scene which I had assiduously cultivated during my erstwhile professional career (where there was usually a pragmatic objective admittedly nurtured by a passion for whiskey). Lately – during what I have mockingly labeled my curmudgeonly period – I “refined” my withdrawal from society by confining the conclaves to daylight hours with only coffee or tea. What occurred this evening is a forceful reminder that my etiquette in these matters is very much predicated upon the evolution of a scintillating conversation; otherwise I am at sea both intellectually and emotionally. Plainly it is quite impossible to compete with the background din of a public house.
I do not for a moment purport to elevate myself by standing on others. This so-called progression is nothing more I am certain than an accommodation of my old age and commensurate diminution. I applaud those who have the energy to persist!  I recall with fervency the zeal with which I prosecuted similar congregations in my younger days. But I must confess the alteration has overcome me.  I do not view this as a reluctant concession.  Rather I welcome its unbosoming as a release.  I may now with impunity stand down from any future engagement which I know in my heart will meet with similar consternation.  I shall always yearn for and be amused by the acquaintance of others.  But I’m done with being frantic!