I was up in Philadelphia at the Arden Theatre, doing the world premiere of The Dinosaur Musical, a new offering from Willie and Robert Reale, the guys who brought you A Year With Frog and Toad. Because it was a new show and I had a tough track, I would frequently leave rehearsal exhausted. The Arden housed the out-of-town cast members at their Artists House, which was just north of the Ben Franklin bridge and about a five block walk from the theatre.
After a particularly trying day, I was trudging back to the House, my briefcase and purse weighing heavy from my left shoulder. It was darkish and wettish outside and I felt glum. On my way I passed a sushi restaurant. I hadn’t prepped anything to make for my dinner that evening and I was tired of delivery pizza, so it occurred to me that some nice sushi would chirk me up no end. I retraced my steps and entered the restaurant.
The restaurant was about half full. Its decor was stylish, the the diners were stylish and the prices were stylish. I suddenly felt very scruffy (I was wearing beat-up jeans, sneakers and a parka, and was a bit on the sweaty side from rehearsal). Rather than eat in, I decided I’d carry out, and told the very kind hostess so. She took my order and I paid her. She invited me to sit at the bar to wait for my order. There were approximately a dozen stools at the bar, all empty. I selected the second one from the left.
Now, the bar stools had a very interesting design, which in my weariness, I hadn’t noticed. The two front legs were at the left and right corners of the seats, like any bar stool. The back legs, however, were not in the corresponding positions at the rear of the seat. Instead, they were clumped stylishly together at the center back, giving the bar stools a kind of tripod look. I heaved my tired ass into the second seat from the left as I simultaneously unwound my briefcase and purse straps from my shoulder and pushed them onto the first seat from the left.
It was the pushing that did it. The momentum of the push tipped my tripod-shaped bar stool just a little to the right. It teetered for a thrilling second, then over it went, with me in it. With a crash, I fell off the stool and landed flat on my back with my sneakers straight up in the air. To add insult to injury, the treacherous second stool from the left continued to tip right, colliding with the third stool, which tipped and collided with the fourth stool, which tipped and collided with the fifth stool —
WHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAM aaaaaaaand…WHAM. Every stool at the bar went over, while I watched from the floor. There was a stunned silence from the other diners as they watched the stools topple like dominoes. I saw the hostess and two other staffers staring in horror, their hands pressed to their mouths (in retrospect, they were probably thinking: “Oh, no! Lawsuit!”). When the final stool crashed to the floor, there was a moment of stillness, broken at last by the restaurant staff hurrying to aid me to my feet. To their credit, the diners returned to their nilgiri and California rolls. No one snickered. The hostess was most apologetic but I knew I was crimson to the eyebrows. The stools were righted and I was ushered back onto one, but this time I kept one foot on the ground just in case the stupid thing went out from under me again. I hunched my face into my parka hood to keep from seeing anyone. I bet they think I’m drunk, I thought, and cringed with shame.
Eventually my order came, and I slunk from the restaurant, certain that as soon as the door shut behind me, everyone was going to burst out laughing, or worse, shake their heads and murmur with pity at the poor drunken woman. I’ve no idea if the sushi was any good or not – I was still so embarrassed when I got to the House that it tasted like sawdust to me. I told the story of the Sushi Dominoes the next day at rehearsal. My director was horrified and sympathetic, as were some of the cast. Other cast members, however, joked that every day, one of us should go in there, order takeout and knock all the barstools down, just for fun.
Somehow, it didn’t seem like such a great joke to me. I was in Philly for another two months and it took me that whole time to work up the courage to go in there again. I sat at a table with friends that time. To my relief, the staff didn’t recognize me, but to my disappointment, no one knocked over the bar stools. I was so hoping someone would.