“The Corn Exchange” is not like the Grain Exchange or Wall Street; it’s a French restaurant with a New York chef…in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota. It’s a classy place.
We’ve come here for dinner on recommendation of Carol and Kenn, the innkeepers of Hisega Lodge in the Black Hills. The food is fine; the people watching is equally good or better.
You’re not supposed to stare at people, especially in a restaurant. But sometimes you can’t help it. Like when a beautiful 30-something Asian woman dressed to the nines and a 30-something guy wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and jogging shoes are seated at a table in full view for people-watching.
They seem to be on a first date, a bit nervous with each other, maybe matched by a dating service or something, awkward with each other. The first indication is the woman talking on her cell phone. Her date seems a bit irked, or so I think, until he pulls out his iPad, puts it in front of him on the white linen tablecloth, and begins to do whatever he is doing – perhaps showing his date that he, too, has nothing at stake, is cool, detached, not vulnerable, killing time in the awkward silence.
The woman has finished her three phone conversations. Her mind is back where her body is, at the table with the guy in the t-shirt, jeans, and jogging shoes. But he’s not there. He has his iPhone in one hand and his iPad on the table. Maybe he’s texting himself back and forth. Whatever he’s doing, he seems oblivious to the beautiful, well-dressed Asian woman who has come with him to the fancy Corn Exchange…for a date…and is ready now for him to play the game of hot pursuit. He doesn’t notice. She’s tapping her foot. She’s staring out the window in disgust, her chin resting in her left hand, as if to say, ”B o r i n g!”
The rest of the meal is like pushing a replay button. The exchanges at the corner table at The Corn Exchange are predictable. He’s preoccupied; she taps her foot. She’s looking out the window when he’s ready to engage; he’s wiggling his leg. She looks at him; he turns his body to the side and looks away. He looks at her; she looks down and takes a bite.
Desserts arrive. The pain endurance contest is almost over. He smiles and begins to pay attention. She smiles back and pays attention. Then the rude people-watchers see an exchange they’ve missed along the way of trying not to be so rude. You can’t stare all the time. The two cell phones – his and her’s – and the iPad are now in his custody, on the windowsill beside their table. We’re’ confused.
Only then do we see the ring on her finger.