Vladimir Putin: Keep Your Distance at Our Dinner Party

Eric Green



There’s an expression in the Philippine dialect of Visaya that when two people are dating, friends and relatives will ask them, “When’s the long table?” – meaning, when are you getting married?

That expression came to mind as I watched Vladimir Putin on TV, sitting at the far end of a wooden table stretching 20-feet-long in what seemed galaxies away from such world leaders as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and even Putin’s own foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, seated on the far other end. They were so distant from each other that Putin might as well have been in a different time zone, or in another room talking to himself, or conversing with these people on Zoom. From what I could see on the TV screen, at least they were using microphones to communicate, or was it loud speakers?

Supposedly, the official word is that Putin keeps himself far apart to avoid being exposed to Covid-19 and the Omicron variant.



That picture of Putin might be reminiscent of the movie Citizen Kane when Charles Foster Kane sits silently at opposite ends of a very large dinner table at breakfast from his first wife Emily, or similarly in a scene from the old TV show Columbo when developer Hugh Creighton (played by Dabney Coleman) is plotting to kill his mistress Marcy Edwards (played by Cheryl Paris) as they have breakfast at an elongated table where they practically would have to scream at each other to be heard.

I mention all this because it smacks of how on a recent Friday night my wife and I ate at a seafood restaurant, and when it came time to pay our bill, the server, throwing us both for a loop, asked if we wanted separate checks. It was as if we weren’t really together -- just as Putin seemed to be disconnected from the individual on the other side of the conference room.

My wife and I both smiled sheepishly at the server’s question, but then my wife blurted out, laughing, “Excuse me?” after which her smile turned upside down as if it wasn’t actually that funny. What startled her, my wife said, was that it was the first time in our 24 years of marriage a server in a restaurant had ever asked us whether we wanted to pay separately. My wife then explained that we were actually together, and to please hand her the check as she was paying for our dinner with her credit card.



The server also seemed rattled by our reaction, perhaps because she realized she might have unsettled my wife by committing what some would say was a faux pas. Whatever the case, I too was taken aback by the comment,  which made me think that I didn’t look the part of a husband taking his wife out for dinner, or vice versa. On the other hand, perhaps we were making too big a deal out of the question and just being oversensitive. Maybe this was a question the server always asked two adults sitting together at a restaurant table.

Then again, maybe not.

My wife wondered if perhaps the waitress knew something we didn’t. It’s true neither of us was wearing our wedding rings that night and perhaps the server thought this was a blind date, and that after initially plopping bread on our table, she might have imagined we were two strangers who were matched together in an experiment like the Date Lab that the Washington Post runs in its Sunday magazine. Figuratively speaking, we might as well have been similar to Putin – completely separated in his own world.

This server will obviously never know the impact of her simple question, but it lingered with my wife that evening, wondering if we actually either looked single or were separated or divorced from our spouses and were trying out the dating scene even at our respective advanced ages. Or more clandestinely, there was something fishy about our meeting up at this seafood restaurant as if we were having an affair tucked away as we were in our requested corner booth next to the kitchen some distance away from the other diners so as to not get exposed to Covid-19.



Here’s another scenario. Maybe the server thought we were office companions having dinner after a long day of work. The server might have thought the female in our duo didn’t want this to be considered a date, thus the separate checks question. Or more likely, the server didn’t care about our relationship status to ponder how we might want to pay the bill. Separate checks seemed the easiest and fastest way to clear the table.

However we came across, happily my wife and I weren’t sitting miles apart from each other in that restaurant booth. If, by some miraculous leap of fate, Vladimir Putin invited us to join him for dinner at a restaurant, probably he would request a table for our party that was at least 20 feet long – and when our food is served, I could shout out to Putin, “How are you enjoying your ‘just deserts’”?


Author Bio:

Eric Green, a Highbrow Magazine contributor, is a former newspaper reporter, U.S. congressional press aide, English as a second language teacher, and now a freelance writer in the Washington D.C. area. His articles have appeared in various newspapers and websites, including the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.


For Highbrow Magazine


Image Sources:

--Nicole Michalou (Pexels, Creative Commons)

--Andrea Piacquadio (Pexels, Creative Commons)

--www.kremlin.ru (Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

--Pikist (Creative Commons)


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