Polite Refusals

Randa and I are dining at an outdoor balcony table on Decatur Street in New Orleans, diagonally opposite Jackson Square and a block or two away from the river. A lovely breeze washes over us as the shadows climb the buildings to the east. Automobiles, bicycle taxis and mule-drawn carriages pass by beneath us while we eat. Pedestrians throng by in pulsing progression, pausing at intersections and storefronts.

I take the last bites of a crawfish cake sandwich while Randa finishes her seafood salad. In the dying light of the city, the air and evening have the fine feel of a summer day whose heat has ebbed to gentle warmth.

I notice a middle-aged man, medium in height and weight, his face and neck bearing the deep flush of the perpetually intoxicated. He staggers across the street, stops three steps away from the curb and calls up to Randa, “Honey, would you do me a favor? Would you please just jump down here into my arms?”

She pretends not to hear or see him and we both ignore him, a very different tactic than that used by the drivers trying to move through the intersection and turn onto Decatur. They honk their horns and yell, “Get out of the street.”

He stands his ground with the blind courage and oblivious determination of the devoutly drunk, using a very limited vocabulary in both verbal and non-verbal forms to inform the drivers that his romantic pursuits will not be altered by their harassments.

His focus diverted by the honking, he wanders down the side street, arguing with a couple of restaurant workers and then a bike taxi driver. Each session yields the same lack of desired result and ends with him yelling the same two words, then shuffling on to his next opportunity.

Perhaps due to my being one floor above all this and the advantage of being spectator rather than active participant, I find myself somewhat amused by the interlude. I also find myself soon shifting my focus to the other sights, sounds and smells of the evening. Randa and I sit and talk, taking our time and enjoying this rare venture.

I admit without embarrassment that I take no small satisfaction in her choice to continue with me rather than accepting a stranger’s invitation in spite of his obvious charm and courage. I have witnessed, from closer proximity than I’d like to admit, poorer choices.

I can also vaguely imagine the sorrow it brings our Maker to see his children leaping from the balcony in response to the red-faced biddings of our Enemy.

H. Arnett


About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Blair, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-five years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-one grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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