Wednesday, September 24, 2014

About the Rude Gentleman at the Table Next to Me

This evening, we went to a rather nice restaurant.  The food is always perfect-everything local, most organic, everything perfectly done and presented by somebody who should be a food photographer.  We sat down, ordered, and, of course, because I am the queen of people watching, I started to people watch.  The people at the table next to us were a middle-aged couple and their teenage son (pay attention to them, they're the point of this long-winded story).  I joined in the conversation at my table and promptly forgot to people watch.
A picture that has absolutely nothing to do with anything

Halfway through our meal, my people watching-self surfaced and casually listened in to the conversation that was happening at the table next to me between the husband of the family and the waitress.  
Waitress: And how is your food?
Man: (Imagine that his nose is in the air, oh, and he's talking quite loudly) Well, those vegetables were completely lacking in any kind of nuanced flavor.  Your chef needs to rethink this whole meat dish-I mean, really, the meat was far too overdone and this herb sprig is wilted.  
Waitress: (Looking terrified) Well, how was the salad?
Man: (Nose sticking up higher in the air) Well…fine, I suppose.
Waitress: Would you like me to get the chef?
Man: (Says hastily) No! No!  It's fine, it's really fine.  You don't need to worry about it.  
Waitress: Well, I could just call him over-
Man: No, no. 
Waitress: (Walks away looking weary)

I didn't make this up or embellish, by the way.  This is pretty much how this conversation went down.  

Readers, I trust I don't have to explain the extreme rudeness of the man at the table.  The point isn't whether the food did or did not need to be "rethought" (there's something grammatically iffy about this sentence, please tell me what it is).  The point is that somebody was completely lacking in any kind of social grace and, of course, wasn't brave enough to actually talk to the chef, just pretentiously whine to the waitress. 

And then the fuming started at my table (did I mention that I have a family of people watchers?  I like to think I trained them all very well in the art of people watching, er, listening).  We all agreed to loudly praise the food when the harried waitress came to our table.  But after that, I was still musing on properly biting remarks to the man at the next table.  And, believe me, I thought of some pretty good ones.  

Imagine this:
(After waitress leaves table and man is looking pleased with himself)
Me: Excuse me, I happened to hear your discussion of the food.  For what food column do you write?
Man: (I haven't quite worked out what he's supposed to say…probably just look properly abashed and murmur something apologetic)


(Same setting and time as before)
Me: Excuse me, I was walking past and heard you criticizing the food.  At what restaurant did you train?
Man: (Same response as before, except probably a little more stunned)

I could have just whacked him upside the head with my seltzer bottle and properly shocked the whole restaurant.  

But I did none of those things.  But I told you about it, so I feel completely vindicated.  Thank you, dear readers.  And maybe, just maybe, this man will be surfing through the book blogs that he loves and come across this post and be thoroughly mortified and repent.  Maybe he'll even ask me to absolve him of his horrible error.  Can't you imagine it?  What a lovely image.  And thus ends my post that had absolutely nothing to do about books (seriously, I can't think of one way to tie this into books except that I was disgusted because I had to drive instead of read Val McDermid's Northanger Abbey on the way to the restaurant.)  


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  2. Having just returned from two nights at our favourite local hotel and restaurant I cannot only sympathise but empathise too! We people watch and get infuriated at the behaviour of some customers (either their table manners, their dress sense – or lack of and complaints about the food.)
    A year or so ago this same restaurant acquired a new chef who replaced the retiring chef who set the place up twenty - twenty-five years ago. The new chef had different ideas, but to us he was the breath of fresh air the place needed. Some regular customers were not impressed. One couple in our hearing chose to complain in a similar manner to what you witnessed, their technique was first to pick on the youngest and most inexperienced member of the waiting staff to make their complaint. It turned out the main issue was over how the chef cooked his roast potatoes ending with the women of the couple saying she knew how to cook them and if they let her in the kitchen she would show the chef how it was done!
    Sadly, after a year or so of this the chef has moved on and I suspect from what we have been told by other staff the occasion we witnessed was not the first or last.
    Like you I have wondered what do you do?
    Once solution is the TripAdvisor Website, this now allows you to make multiple reviews of establishments so when I read a negative review, which is obviously the on-line version of what you witnessed, I post a very positive review of our last visit!
    I’ve come to the conclusion there is nothing you can say to such ill-mannered people, unless you want to draw yourself in to a confrontation.