The happy hour at Harry's is just beginning to hum when a tall woman in a bright red blazer strides through the door, her eyes sparkling for all to see as she scans the room for the girlfriends she is late in meeting. Ah, there they are! Now to wade through crowd milling near the bar. Excuse me, she says to one man, gently tapping the padded shoulder of his suit coat. He turns and calls out her name all joyously. This is my friend Bob! and Bob cries Hello! and introduces his friends and suddenly the woman finds herself the happy center of boisterous circle of loud chesty men.
Given her smile and admirable poise, this is not the first time she’s found herself in this situation. Either that or she has seen enough Barbara Stanwyck movies to know the drill: She takes in their admiration and sends it back with a ravishing lighthouse sweep.
One of the chesty men asks if he can get her a drink and she says as a matter of fact she was meeting some friends for a glass of wine...
Glass of wine! Glass of wine! the man calls gallantly to the bartender, Glass of wine! and then spins back so as not to lose his place in the happy circle. Another chesty man brakes from the circle and flags down the bartender and pays for the wine and returns triumphantly to the circle with the Glass of wine! Glass of wine! I paid for your glass of wine! Yet another man offers her a string attached to a red balloon he was brought with him to the bar for some reason. It matches your jacket! he shouts triumphantly.
The string turns out to be the one thing in her situation the woman cannot grasp and the balloon shoots for the stamped tin ceiling high above. The chesty men let out a home-team touchdown cheer. And while they cheer and point, the cunning young woman sees her chance and slips away from the circle and moves toward the table at the other end of the bar where her girlfriends wait with sympathetic eyebrows raised and knowing wags of the head.
The balloon bobs along the swirling currents above the bar, rising only to be forced back down by a trio of ceiling fans. The men soon lose interest and their happy circle becomes once more a milling group. The balloon eventually works its way between the ceiling and the blades of the slowest fan and is forgotten until clumps of dust and fuzz that have collected on the backsides of the blades begin to fall and people are saying excuse me but you have a piece of fuzz on your head, on your shoulder, in your drink. A bartender looks up. It's that balloon!
The people laugh and duck and hands cover vulnerable drinks. Soon a clever busboy tapes a bread knife to a broom handle, then tapes that broom handle to another broom handle and pops the balloon, ending the rain of fuzz and raising another cheer from the assembled throng. Several chesty men give the clever busboy hearty backslaps, as he grins sheepishly with his improvised spear.
The burst balloon and string cling tenaciously to one the blades, circling and circling as the happy hour hums on.
American Study #28: Kansas City, Missouri