monday nighters

1 December 2008

Tonight, like many Mondays, I go to the Lion after work for a quiet dinner.  They do comfort food well, and I usually get the soup and sandwich special and a glass of wine and settle in to read my book in a cosy corner.  It’s the kind of place where lots of people do that.  As I walk in, a short bubbly woman with a confident booming voice, bearing a small table, cheerfully entreats me to hold the door open for her.

After I’ve ordered, a couple of girlfriends walk in and sit down near me to have beer, nachos and a gab session.  A couple of blokes are at the bar reading the paper with half an eye on the sports tv and chatting idly with the bartender.   A group of five or six are finishing dinner at one table and a married couple is over in another corner.   The kind of patronage you’d expect in a neighbourhood pub on a Monday night.

“Are you ready for karaoke night?” the bartender asks me (with a wary smile) as he cleans off a nearby table.

“Huh?” Perplexed, I look around at the other Monday nighters who surely haven’t come here expecting that either.

Annoyance washes over me.  My plans for the next hour included hot chicken pot pie and my book.  I was ENJOYING the seventies songs playing low over the sound system.  The two girlfriends sitting near me are annoyed too, more vocally than I am.  And it’s understandable.  If you’re a Monday nighter, you don’t generally go into your local looking for karaoke night.

So the bubbly woman with the table is Karaoke Girl.  Having hooked up her gear, her gravelly rock chick voice booms across the pub through a microphone set at a level to be heard over rousing, drinking crowds of karaoke-ers.  She busts into her first rock chick song and walks through the pub so she can work the crowd of eleven.  I look over the top of my book and see she’s standing up on the level where the two girlfriends and I are sitting.  It’s painful.  She’s facing back out into the rest of the pub, but I can read into her back that she’s realised she doesn’t have a happy audience up here.

After she hits an extended husky rock chick high note, (I’m glad she didn’t see my involuntary wince), the girlfriends at the next table complain again.

Karaoke Girl has brought a fan contingency.  It seems her and the table of five are visiting our little Toronto Beaches pub all the way from the Niagara Peninsula.  With the group is a middle aged man with Down Syndrome, who is excited to do karaoke.  The fans whoop and whistle enthusiastically for Karaoke Girl, while looking sort of apologetically at us Monday nighters.  While she’s belting out a rock chick spin on a Tragically Hip song, a new couple walks in, and she says into the mic: “Hey, a couple of karaoke singers have joined us everyone!”   The couple looks confused and embarrassed and defensive.  “Oh no” says the woman and gives her the ‘talk to the hand’ wave.  And the murdering of the perfectly good Hip song is carried through to completion.

So the man with Down Syndrome is convinced to take the stage, and he does a rendition of “You Belong to Me.”  His squeaky, thin voice and tentative delivery is strangely beautiful, and I think I’d rather listen to him than Karaoke Girl.  He gets my applause.

The wait staff is looking at us Monday nighters nervously.  Karaoke Girl offers to pick up the tab of the complaining girlfriends.  (I really should be more vocal sometimes.)  The girlfriends are getting on their coats, unable to tolerate one more rock chick high note.  But then the couple who had nervously sat down a few minutes ago has a change of heart.  He’s going to sing, but can’t find a particular Elvis song.  So she gets up and does a duet with Karaoke Girl.  The girlfriends take off their coats.  As I ready myself to go home, things are looking up for karaoke night at the Lion.

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