I was sitting in an airport fast food restaurant in Chicago about a week ago at lunchtime, sharing a pizza and salad with my wife and young daughter before our next flight. It was a Wolfgang Puck's Cafe, as it happens, that shared seating space and tables with a small airport bar. We were sitting on the bar side having our lunch when a man in a suit came bounding in enthusiastically with a friend (also in a suit) and promptly announced loudly to no one in particular, "This place is off the hook!"
This surprised me a little, because it was still before Noon on a Sunday and the bar itself was empty, save for one middle-aged guy sipping a beer by himself while watching golf on the TV above. And frankly the bar had considerably less energy at that moment than the Hudsons news stand and gift shop next door. As the guy and his buddy ordered beers jauntily from the nonplussed bartender ("Let's go big. Shall we go big? Yeah, go big for us. Yeah, THOSE glasses..."), I noticed that both men had their ties pulled down rakishly off their necks, like they'd just finished a hard day's grind. But as I said, it was 11:45 AM on a Sunday morning, so that seemed unlikely. "Man, this place is great!" one enthused to the other as they each began sipping their big beers, smiling broadly and self consciously like they were in a Coors Light commercial.
I was just about to scoff at this scene when I noticed that they each fell abruptly silent after that. Not another word was spoken between them, like the air was suddenly let out of their tires. And slowly they each turned around and began watching the golf on TV, too, in silence. They had fought valiantly, if briefly, to make the place something it wasn't. But in the end the empty bar had won. Inevitably.