It was 4:30 PM on a Friday afternoon and I had already left the office to pick up my car in the underground garage. It was good to get away a little early as Fridays can be so hectic, everybody trying to wrap up all the loose ends so that Monday morning’s challenges contained no leftovers.
I turned out of the garage and headed north, weaving my way in and out of already heavy rush hour traffic. Yesteryear’s rush hour is today’s more than three hour headache of beep and creep or stall and crawl. Hitting the North Toll way, I stayed in the right had lane, exiting 5 miles north and ran the service road. Soon I was pulling into Antonio’s Restaurant, parking and entering at the door to the back, just in time for happy hour.
The whole back end of Antonio’s was one huge function room, beautifully decorated and comfortably furnished. Upon entering you are struck by the rustic loft look with the exposed beams visible across the ceiling. The floors were all beautiful wide plank oak, the kind you might see in an old factory. There was only one humongous room but it was really divided into two parts, without walls. To the right in the middle of that half was a large circular mahogany bar with brass rail foot rests around the exterior bottom. Lined around the bar were captain’s chairs that swiveled 360 degrees and above the bar were the glass racks where every kind of drinking glass hung upside done by its stem. Scattered all around the bar in a wide arc were couches and chairs, some of them leather, with end tables and coffee tables placed here and there.
The left half was all about dining with tables and cushioned chairs arranged according to that group’s preference. For our group the setup was rectangular tables pushed together into one giant horseshoe with seating around the outside only. The tables were covered with white tablecloths and white linen napkins accompanied the silverware.
I headed straight for the bar and one of those captain’s chairs, promptly ordering a Jack Daniels and soda from the bartender who was dressed in tux with a red shirt.
“Did you sign in on the menu choice book yet?” intoned the bartender as he brought me my libation.
“No, what are the choices for tonight,” I asked.
“Baby back ribs or grilled salmon.”
As I signed into the book at the end of the bar someone put his arm around my shoulder. I turned to see the face of my good friend Paul.
“How are you doing, tonight Fred,” he asked.
“As my son would say I’m just chillin’ out,” I replied. “Doing fine Paul and glad to be here. I understand we have an excellent speaker on tap for tonight.”
“Who is that?” quipped Jim as he strode into the conversation.
“Dr. G.F. Stewart,” I replied.
“And what is his topic going to be,” queried Paul.
“Salutary Effects Of A System Of Ethics And Morality Upon Human Health,” said I.
“Now this I got to hear,” retorted Jim.
The room that had nary a soul in it when I arrived at a few minutes past 5:00 o’clock had now started to fill up. Antonio only required that we guarantee him 50 people and that everybody paid retail prices, no discounts and he would waive all room charges. The group flat charged each member $40 which included the price of the meal with tip and costs of the guest speaker. Beverages were an additional individual charge. Although that might sound like a hefty charge, each month our numbers grew.
As the hour approached the waiters brought in a salad for each place setting. Precisely at 6:00 PM there was heard three loud raps.
Whereupon we all gathered around the tables standing at our places. One of the group brought into the inside of the horseshoe a small table upon which he place a closed Bible and the square and compasses. And then was heard these time honored words, “Brother Senior Warden, what duty proceeds the opening of a Lodge?”