• Laughing with Strangers
By Lucy Adams

We gathered for dinner around a farm table stretching across the kitchen porch of the old Barnsley Manor. The sun dropped and a steady rain gently pattered. White candles flickered raucously in grand silver candelabras. Wax cascaded in lacy drips. An acoustic guitarist sentimentally crooned. The stately red brick walls of the manor ruins, hoisting verdant trailing vines on their shoulders, back-dropped the picturesque Old South scene.
I sat amid strangers, guests like me at a 3-day media event hosted by the Barnsley Gardens Resort, once owned by European royalty, located on a property dating to the early 1800s. I was privileged to join the varied journalists invited to experience this haven in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The cocktail fusion samples prior to the multi-course meal buckled the mood onto a rollercoaster to destiny.
One mixture had the distinct flavor of an October Saturday in Athens. Another, with tequila as its active ingredient, promised a long night in the county jail. A third, a pink vodka concoction with cucumber garnish, tasted dangerously delicious. The fourth and final glass contained aged he-man-hair-on-the-chest.
These were not the first alcoholic beverages of the day, and wine pairings with dinner and champagne with the Fairy Godmother lay ahead. Reading the cherry swimming at the bottom of the bourbon glass, I foresaw a future sans journalistic dignity. Politely, I sipped and set each aside. Surveying the slew of emptied glasses, however, I wished I could surrender to the moment like my counterparts.
By the time the chef served the intermezzo course, a bonafied media stalker was being texted from the table, a deep discussion about PR practicalities that had a slim chance of being remembered the morrow ensued, and a woman waved her arms overhead, throwing flesh in rhythm to the music.
A tall blonde named Jessica vacated her seat, skirted around the table and arrived at my side, asking, “Have you ever noticed that in social situations like these there are three types of people?”
I didn’t know Jessica enough to doubt her. The way she explained it convinced me that her observation isn’t up for academic debate. She pointed to a grouping of our cohorts. “There are the kind who are always at work, can’t quit talking about it, and the more they drink the more they hash out details of big ideas.”
Then, Jessica nodded toward the woman behind me. I turned to gape at the girl determined to live these moments like they were her very last on earth. Her eyes were closed and her upper teeth clamped her lower lip. As if alone, her body swayed unapologetically in time with the crooner’s clip. “And some people let it all hang out. Look!” Jessica prodded.
It took gallons of resolve not to turn and gawk more. “The second person who stares always gets caught,” I protested with a giggle.
Knowingly, Jessica continued, “And finally, there are people who settle for having a good time.”
She meant us. We basked in the gift of anonymity. We wouldn’t go home with a million-dollar scheme, but our uninhibited images wouldn’t be burned on the brain of anyone either. The humor of it wrapped silent throes of hilarity around our ribs until breath coming in and sound going out suspended.
Our mirth quickly caught to the rest of the table. In that communal instant, amid the magic of that environment, we suddenly all knew each other.
But, Jessica was wrong. There’s a fourth type of person in social situations like these, the type who laughs with strangers, the person who sends everyone home with million-dollar memories.

(Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson, GA. Email Lucy at lucybgoosey@aol.com and visit her web site, www.ifmama.com.)





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