I wonder sometimes if toxic people are unaware that they are toxic or they just don’t care. The more I ponder it, the more I am unsure.

We went to a lovely tapas place for dinner. We go each year about this time. The food is delicious with so many choices. The décor is subdued without being full of itself, but candles on each table and servers that clear plates as fast as you clear them and fill your water glass like magic. You can wear jeans and feel comfortable and the sangria is very good. There is normally a casual rumble of discussions ebbing and flowing around you; each table a calm happy island.

When we went in on Saturday, we were seated and promptly brought water. But the vibe in the room was off. The area was almost full, but it is frequently full and tables that leave are immediately replaced with more guests. The sound was louder but there was just something off. I thought it was me, maybe I was tense for some reason and would feel better after a few sips of sangria.

There was a large table occupied in the middle of the room. Large tables are common at this restaurant and normally not a concern or change to the dynamic in the room. This one was different. The more I overheard (they were not quiet) and the more I sat there; I felt the ooze of unhappy drama. Other tables kept glancing at the table and at one woman. The servers kept trying to move the process along (they had been done eating for a bit). Some of the large table got up and gathered for pictures (there was no real room for that) and at one point the woman decided she was leaving with two others, immediately put on her coat (still pretty oblivious as she almost smacked me in the head with a sleeve) and left.  And the room vibe changed.

Now the older female at the table started to cry, others hovered and talked in low tones. But the anxiousness that had crept to each and every table seemed to dissipate like a low hanging fog that gets hit with a breeze. We as a crowd could handle sad, but the slow poisoning of the atmosphere was making us all on edge.

So, do people who cause that even know? Some people enjoy being the center of attention and the star of the show, but this is different. It is like they carry around them this force field of toxic that leaks out onto others. I like to think they have no idea (and are not knowingly forcing this on unsuspecting strangers who just want a chorizo-wrapped medjool date and cheese (or two). And then I wonder how to help them… as a stranger I am not sure you can or I haven’t figured out a way.

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