3 Degrees Of Separation


The street car came to an abrupt stop. This wouldn’t usually have distracted me from my book expect for the emphatic words of the passenger behind me who proclaimed in a melodious New Orleans inflection - “Wot goin on dere?"  I decided to look out the window, and saw a behemoth sized passenger van with a sweet old lady behind the wheel, she looked oblivious to her surroundings.  Her passenger, an elderly gentlemen which I can only assume was her husband, was sitting calmly in a gently stooped position. 

They were both adorable, in a life lived together and overcoming hardships side by side kind of way.  I was drawn to them for reasons I couldn’t quite understand.  Was it the happy plastic flower and makeshift vase decoration that adorned the side of their car that exuded quirkiness? Or, did they represent a nostalgic New Orleans that I’d heard and read about but was becoming a distant memory with all the changes the city had been through?  The street car conductor returned back to the car and as he started up the engine he was heard mumbling, ‘I can’t believe she thinks she hit a rock when she clearly hit that car!'

Two weeks rolled by as quickly as a storm over the warm gulf and the roiling Mississippi. We were on our way to our favorite Oyster bar when out of nowhere on the corner of Prytania and Peniston, zooms out a monster passenger van with a happy flower flapping from the side of the car.  I froze and quickly interrupted my husband’s tapestry of expletives and yelped, ‘that’s the same van I saw 2 weeks ago, quick follow it’.  “I know they were in the wrong but there’s no use trying to get even with them”-he said pleadingly. “No”, I replied, “I just want to know who they are and where they are heading.”

We followed them up to Napoleon Ave and at the lights my husband lost interest in my obsession and we made our way to our destination with him reassuring me that our paths were bound to cross again. Besides, we had an appointment with some Oysters Rockefeller; a bottle of buttery Chardonnay and our favorite oyster shucker who teased colleagues and told us hilarious stories without missing a beat.  Kenny saw us approaching the bar and gave us his usual teasing “Where y’all been”? As he fist bumped us with his non-gloved hand.  We settled in and placed our wine order with the waitress and gave Kenny our oyster order.  Kenny started filling us in with the latest gossip and we exchanged stories about sports and funny anecdotes. I started joking about how we almost didn’t make it to the bar tonight and were almost side swiped by a ‘Moby dick’ type van with a ‘fake flower in its snout’.

Kenny started laughing and then declared, “I know that van. I see it pass up here all the time.”  I stopped mid sip and said “What!? Do you know who they are? Do they come in here often”?  Kenny replied, “All I know through the grapevine is that they love going to eat at that French Bistro - Crepe Bijou, they’re regulars over there and have been going there for almost 20 years.” He continued, “Everyone is amazed at how she can still drive at her age and the near misses they have had on these Uptown streets."  I was fascinated and told Kenny about the street car incident 2 weeks ago when she was heard saying that she didn’t know she hit the car and was sure it was a rock that she heard against her hood.  Kenny laughed out loud and said that he once saw that van close up and noticed how many dents it had.  “Lucky, she drives that tank, it’s as unstoppable as ‘Moby Dick’ itself."

Kenny then started telling us a funny story about how his wife once didn’t remember what dressing to get for his Caesar salad.  We all laughed, slurped down our meaty, cold oysters and just like Captain Ahab, I started to plot my encounter at Crepe Bijou.


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