Missing the social cues.

One of my best friends is from a genteel suburb here in Oklahoma.  It’s one of those places people move to “for the schools.”  The average household income there is double what it is in the rest of our state.  He was in all the honors stuff, great parents. He had a great upbringing.  Stable stuff.

When you are raised in this sort of environment, you have an opportunity to thrive in ways others don’t.  You also miss out on seeing certain kinds of human behavior.

He and I found ourselves in Chickasha, Oklahoma one Friday or Saturday night.  We ate some barbecue at Jake’s Rib and mosied downtown.

Like all small towns around here back then Chickasha had a billiards hall.   “Men’s” was the name of it.  My buddy and I love to play snooker, so we decided to drop in and play for a while.  It was summertime and still daylight when we got snooker balls and picked a table near the door.

One of us racked, the other broke, I don’t remember who.  By time we had sunk maybe 4 or 5 balls a bunch of rednecks piled through the door.  Two of them went directly to our table, the others, I think there were three, went up to the front desk and were hanging around up there.

The smaller of the two who approached us said, “You guys should go play that table over there, it’s the best table in the whole place.  That’s where you should play.”  The pair then turned and headed for the front counter.  About that time, 3 pretty hot girls walked in and joined the rednecks.

I thanked him for the advice and immediately started gathering those snooker balls up and headed for the other table.  I wanted to get the hell out of there, but didn’t want to wade off in the middle of them to turn in those balls and tab out, especially with the addition of those girls.  I could just imagine making my way to the counter and a someone saying I had rubbed up on one of those girls just before someone beat me down with a snooker ball. Dammit. I didn’t like how this all was looking.

When we got to the back corner where the guy directed us, my buddy said, “That’s super nice of him to tell us where the best table was.”

That guy was letting us know we weren’t welcome but my Suburban Short-Haired Domesticated Cracker friend couldn’t understand.  I wasn’t interested in explaining it at that time but let him know we needed to GTFOT before we get our ass stomped by 5 bored, bastard cat-headed cowboys plus maybe the guy at the front counter.  Those girls would probably jump in too.

I didn’t like being in the back of that long, skinny, old-timey pool hall.  We were in a bottleneck with those dudes between us and my truck.  I figured the place had a back door, but it might be locked.  If something went bad and we ran back there to find the door locked, we’d get whupped in private.  Extra not-good.

So we played a little snooker. .  I didn’t want to just clear out immediately that might show a bit of panic and have gotten us chased back to Cleveland county.

Pretty soon the crew had moved to the table we had played and left the front counter clear.  I had my buddy check in the balls and pay the tab while I leaned on a pool cue and watched to make sure those dudes didn’t jump us.

As we walked by I said, “Ya’ll have a good evening,” and eased on out the front door, got in my truck and drove away calmly.

No amount of explaining the social cues I saw, the knowledge of rural pool halls and beer joints I had, could make him understand that we were probably looking at a fist-fight had we wanted it, or an ass-kicking if we had been oblivious.  I could have been wrong.  Maybe they just wanted us off their favorite table so they could see folks on the sidewalk outside the hall.  Maybe they wanted us to have a great experience at Men’s Snooker Hall.   I don’t think so and I wasn’t willing to find out.

I’m a lover, not a fighter, at least at those odds.


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