I walked into one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Baton Rouge with little on my mind except whatever was on the buffet.
I was guided to my table by a pleasant waitress who asked what I wanted. She has seen me so often that just as I said “Water,” she finished my sentence “and chopsticks and the buffet.” We smiled.
There were three men sitting near me and another customer sitting alone. For the most part, the place was relatively quiet since it was a little past the rush time.
I returned to my table with my plate loaded with scoops of shrimp and chicken dishes. Life was good, and then the three fellas at the nearby table launched into a tirade about Trump, about how he was changing things. Then, louder: “Trump is making those liberals cry.” The yukked it up in unison.
Then they began to batter the media and laughed about how well they thought Trump had acquitted himself with those “a**hole reporters” at the recent news conference.
“He makes them look stupid all the time,” one man bellowed.
If you are an avid newspaper reader like I am, you saw the names of about 170,000 of your closest friends listed on the pages of this newspape…
Wait, they were talking about the Helsinki news conference where the president wilted before the world. Standing over 6 feet tall and weighing allegedly 239 pounds, he physically towered over Russian President Vladimir Putin. But performance-wise, Trump, by most accounts, appeared to be the Mini-Me character from the Austin Powers movies.
But they pressed on even louder, talking about how things are changing for America and how Trump is sticking it to the stupid media.
I guess they had determined that I did not look like a Trump supporter. I wasn’t that African-American guy the Trump media team strategically positions in the audience right behind Trump so that he is in the camera shot at Trump rallies.
I knew what was happening, but I was neither going to be baited nor intimidated. I continued to look at the latest news on my smartphone while picking up my food with my chopsticks.
A couple of times, I looked up to catch the eye of the man sitting nearest me. We just sort of gave each other a nod as if to say, “Yep, this is what it is. Let it go.”
The three men continued their diatribe. I got it. They are that group reflected in Trump’s claim that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” (By the way who would say something like that?)
As I headed back to the buffet for more of that shrimp-broccoli-cabbage dish, I was not upset. This is the new normal. Walking back to my table, I had to shoot a glance over at the three Trumpers. Pretty nondescript other than being obnoxious.
When I sat back down, the serenade launched again. This time it was about how strong of a message Trump had given to Putin. “He (presumably Putin) knows that Trump will come after him if he messes up,” one said.
Wait. What? Didn't they mean to say “messes up again?” And, what tough message did the president deliver? The president capitulated before the world, telling folks that he believed more in Putin than his own intelligence people on Russia’s tampering in the U.S. presidential election.
I had to give another look at the guy sitting near me. He didn’t look up this time. He was focused on his cellphone. I guess any appearance of collusion on our part would have ignited the Trumpians into even louder foolishness.
Finally, the three got up from the table, all looking quite pleased with themselves. Or maybe they were simply satisfied after the buffet dive. Either way, it was good to see them leave.
This was a bad and uncomfortable time for me — as I suspect it was intended to be. And I guess these kinds of things can happen in the reverse, and that would be bad, also.
Please folks, swear off the rhetoric — at least until I finish my shrimp and chicken dishes at my favorite buffet.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at firstname.lastname@example.org.