On a night like a lot of Mondays, I pop into The Lion after work for a quiet dinner. They do comfort food well, and I usually get the soup and sandwich special and a glass of wine and stick myself in a corner to read my book. It’s the kind of place where lots of people do that.
As I approach the door a voice booms down the sidewalk asking me to hold it open, and through it traipses a an attractive woman with a bubbly demeanour bellowing “thanks” in a voice that belies her small stature. After I’ve ordered, a couple of girlfriends walk in and sit down near me to have beer, nachos and a gab. A couple of lone blokes are at the bar with newspapers, keeping half an eye on the sports TV channel and chatting idly with the bartender. A group of five or six are finishing dinner at one table and a married couple is over in another corner. It’s the kind of patronage you’d expect in a neighbourhood pub on a Monday night.
“Are you ready for karaoke night?” the bartender asks me with not a little wariness as he cleans off a nearby table.
Perplexed, I look around at the other Monday nighters who surely haven’t come here expecting that either. Annoyance washes over me. My plans for the next hour included hot chicken pot pie and my book. I was ENJOYING the seventies songs playing low over the sound system. The two girlfriends sitting near me are annoyed too, more vocally than I am. And it’s understandable. If you’re a Monday nighter, you don’t generally go into your local looking for karaoke night.
So the bubbly woman with the table is Karaoke Girl. Having hooked up her gear, her gravelly rock chick voice booms across the pub through a microphone set at a level to be heard over rousing, drinking crowds of karaoke-ers. She busts into her first rock chick song and walks through the pub so she can work the crowd of eleven.
I look over the top of my book and see she’s standing up on the level where the two girlfriends and I are sitting. It’s painful. She’s facing back out into the rest of the pub, but I can read into her back that she’s realised she doesn’t have a happy audience up here. After she hits an extended husky rock chick high note, I wince involuntarily and the girlfriends at the next table complain to the bartender again.
Karaoke Girl has brought a fan contingency. It seems she and the table of five are visiting our little Toronto Beaches pub all the way from the Niagara Peninsula. With the group is a middle aged man with Down syndrome, who is excited to do karaoke. The fans whoop and whistle enthusiastically for Karaoke Girl, while looking sort of apologetically at us Monday nighters. While she’s belting out a rock chick spin on a Tragically Hip song, a new couple walks in, and she says into the mic: “Hey, a couple of new karaoke singers have joined us everyone!” The couple looks confused and embarrassed and defensive. “Ohhh no” says the woman and gives her the ‘talk to the hand’ wave. And the murdering of the perfectly good Hip song is carried through to completion.
So the man with Down syndrome takes the stage, and he does a rendition of “You Belong to Me.” His squeaky, thin voice and tentative delivery is strangely beautiful, and I think I’d rather listen to him than Karaoke Girl. He gets my applause. The bartender is looking at us Monday nighters nervously. Karaoke Girl offers to pick up the tab of the complaining girlfriends. (I really should be more vocal sometimes.) The girlfriends are getting on their coats, unable to tolerate one more rock chick high note.
But then the couple who had nervously sat down a few minutes ago has a change of heart. He’s going to sing, but can’t find a particular Elvis song. So she gets up and does a duet with Karaoke Girl. The girlfriends take off their coats. The bartender pours one of the blokes a fresh pint.
As I ready myself to go home, I’m thinking things are looking up for karaoke night at The Lion.
Copyright © Jennifer Morrison 2008