Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a glorious array of passersby and two wheeled locals on about their business. Thoughts of well-wishers and neighbors there to lend a helping hand fill my little suburban heart. A glorious day this, but it morphed into the type of reality that was feared from the get go. The cost paid for wanting to visit the Charm City was frazzled nerves and the occasional bumped shoulder. Car horns blared and muffled voices sound an impatient “get out of the way.” The heat was getting to everyone.
At the corner of Pratt St. and Light is the M&S Grill. Perhaps a quiet few to wash away the evil glares and the teeth sucking of those glaring about the ineptitude of the wide-eyed visitor would ease the pain.
No host came to greet anybody here and it wasn’t an oasis after all, it was just Any Bar USA. Glasses clinked, the banter roared and the laughter, raucous. An empty seat at the bar and an inattentive bartender was the destination.
After a cold beer finally arrived it was time to check out the surroundings. No eyes met and no gentle head nods of acknowledgement were to be seen. Perhaps it was the condensation of the beer glass or maybe it was nervous sweat, uneasy palms met Levis and then went in for another quaff.
In the last seat at the end of the bar sat a woman. She had a slight smile and a look on her face like she knew something, something about me and was deciding whether to let me in on it or not. Sitting under direct restaurant lighting she looked like the Mona Lisa. In front of her was an empty pilsner-glass, an empty rocks glass and a highball still being sipped on.
“It wasn’t always like this uh uh.” She said. “Back then people had manners. People knew how to carry on conversations.”
I turned around and then back and did a quick scan of the surroundings again to be sure of whom it was she was talking to.
“I’ve lived here all my life. I used to work right there at the aquarium. Before that I worked for at the old cup company. It’s no longer there. That was a fun job. I’m out of work right now.” She added as she gently tapped on the edge of her glass.
She had on a pair of khakis and a graphic t-shirt with the ocean printed on the front. Her sneakers had some life left in them and on her head was a white knit cap. She went on to say that she lived right by Pimlico Race Track and she knows the bus schedule to everywhere she needs to go.
“I never learned to drive.” She admitted and almost seemed a little embarrassed about it. “It sort of scares me. That’s seems silly huh? At that moment she seemed a little less like a Mona Lisa and a little more like some ones timorous grandmother. She also had a way of talking through a person. It wasn’t out of rudeness but out having something to say all the time. Finally when asked if she needed another drink, she chimed in with; “rail tequila and ginger-ale, please.” even before I finished the question.
Who was it that bought her the beer that was in the Pilsner glass? Who bought her the whiskey I’m guessing was in the rocks glass? And was the rail tequila and ginger-ale really worth another go? At this point it didn’t really matter. The pushy city life didn’t have the impact it had earlier. The heat of the day and the impatience of the crowds had long since evaporated.
After a short while full of banter and understanding head nods she picked up her things and said; ‘It was nice meeting you.” And she left. The cost of making a friend and learning about the city was a rail tequila and ginger-ale.