Friday, October 3, 2008

It Never Fails...

Since becoming parents, our restaurant adventures have been drastically reduced in number -- particularly those of the "dine in" variety. Now that our little one is 2 years old, we're trying our luck at taking her out for dinner every once in a while. In doing so, we've discovered why chain restaurants serving bland fare are so popular: you always know what you're going to get, and young children will actually eat it. But I digress...

Tonight, we needed to run an errand immediately after work, destroying any hopes for a home-cooked meal that could be prepared and eaten within the little one's tight schedule. Trying to push that schedule back always ends in disaster. That would be the "so tired I'm going to cry about everything that even slightly varies from my usual routine" kind of disaster, which inevitably leads to the "what the hell were we thinking" moment of revelation once she's fallen asleep. We decided that our best bet was the local Ruby Tuesday, as we know the little one likes their grilled cheese sandwich and there's the bonus of edamame on the salad bar (she could eat her own weight in that stuff). And I have to admit, since they recently changed their look and menu (see the link), the place isn't half bad for a chain restaurant.

We arrived, were seated immediately, and things moved quickly enough that there was no down time for someone to get all fidgety. Edamame was consumed at an incredible rate, and our meals arrived at the table quickly. It was the model meal for a family with a toddler. And then it happened...

Some incredibly self-important prick with no internal filter to keep him from spouting endless story after boring story about himself, spoken at a volume loud enough for people to hear in the neighboring counties, began to drone on and on to his unsuspecting dinner companion about nothing of consequence, whatsoever. I looked over at their table at one point, and Mr. Wonderful wasn't even looking at his friend, who appeared to have slipped into a catatonic state, judging from the blank stare on his face. For a moment, I thought the poor guy was going to start drooling. His jaw had gone slack and the glaze over his eyes made me think of doughnuts. But Yappy McChowderhead just kept on going like an insurance salesman with a bullhorn.

And then it all came back to me. Since we first started dating, this same thing has happened to us pretty much every time we've gone out for dinner. Is this really a widespread problem, or do these assholes just lay in wait for us, then pounce and request the table next to ours?

I actually have a great way to deal with people like that, but I'm not quite brash enough to do it a lot. I have, on a handful of occasions like this, exclaimed in an equally loud and obnoxious voice, "OH, DON'T GET ME STARTED ON ANAL WARTS." It does the trick every time. But now, we have a small child and live in a small town. I don't need my daughter asking me what anal warts are, and I don't need to establish a reputation as "that guy who apparently has warts on his butt and was talking about it in a restaurant."

So I'm asking you, gentle readers, for suggestions about how to handle such a situation. I'm content to let them be as long as I can tune out the conversation, but tonight I couldn't even maintain my train of thought, the guy was so loud. What do you do when faced with such a conundrum, or what successful tactics have you observed? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and thank you ahead of time for what I'm sure will be an entertaining and helpful read.

6 comments:

micala said...

I have had that happen in a restaurant when I was having lunch with a friend and we just simply asked our waitress to be moved to another table. If you ask politely and typically right in front of the offending party, not only do you usually get a quieter spot to enjoy your meal, but you make a point of letting the other person know that they were too loud without ever having to mention anal warts. :)

3dogMcNeill said...

Kinda similar situation at Ottos. My husband and I were seated on the top level, Atherton end. Table of 4 loudest 20 to 30-something women EVER right across from us. After we sat down I could tell by the table that they'd eaten (plates gone); their check showed up seconds later. We thought we were in the clear, but nooooo . . .

They were out celebrating something, yet were finished w/dinner, paid, and were not ordering drinks from the bar (which I thought was totally rude btw). Our meal came, we ate, we left, they were still there.

I wanted to ask the waitress to move us. My husband (I don't know why) adamantly refused. We thought they'd be leaving at any minute anyway. What I ended up doing was catching the waitress on our way out; explained the reason we ate and ran wasn't her and let her know customers at her other tables were very unhappy (everybody was throwing dirty looks). Turned out she'd had several complaints and done all she could to get them to leave. At that point, it's a mgmt thing.

Anyway, to answer your question, next time I will request a table change, regardless of whether we've just been seated, they're busy, or we're eating.

I don't think you can say much to people like these; they're so oblivious anyway. Asking to be reseated is as low key as one can get I think, while still making statement. Plus, I figure if I'm really nice about it, the restaurant ought to be glad to accommodate us and if not, screw them! We're outta there . . .

Michelle said...

I'm not sure I could share publicly everything my husband does in situations like this. He usually will start talking about the asshole in loudly, in monotone, and just drone on and on, ignoring what are usually outraged stares from said asshole, and he can usually go on much longer than anyone else is willing. Anal warts not withstanding, he always has something really smartassed to say about the people around us. I usually sit there mortified and hoping the jerk gets the hint quickly.

What should you do? I agree with Micala. Ask for a different table.

Reginald Golding said...

Most of my friends, in past, have been very outspoken, yet passive aggressive, in that they will wait it out and stew over it, then start kicking out the occasional 'anal wart' variety of approach (see also: 'does this look infected to you?'), but more direct, such as "I'm not the KIND OF PERSON THAT **TALKS TOO LOUDLY AROUND OTHERS AT A RESTAURANT** >stare<."

It works.
But I tend to be non-confrontational, so I never leave with a great feeling of communifaction. Yes, communifaction.

I've also been in public places WITH the overbearing person. In that case, I like to try and mention it, thinking I'm doing my fellow patrons the favor. Normally the best approach is humor "Dude! Did you have alot of coffee today? You are WOUND UP, seriously." Sometimes, they don't get the hint, or appreciate it, so nothing changes.

In THOSE situations, I've seen exactly what Micala mentioned; people near us have requested move, and been relocated. A time or two, I've seen people simply walk out. That bugs me. I tend to dine less with those friends. Well, that, and I no longer live in the same state with them, these days.

I digress.

More often that not though, I fall into enjoying a moron make a spectacle of himself. I get cracked up and end up more entertained by their autocharactachure (yeah, I did that) than anything else. But yes, I'm never *happy* about the distraction; especially if my goal is quality focused time.

Also, tangentially, if it's my party that I perceive to be the problem, "in a toddler way", I'm ready to jam. We've done it more than once, if the little one is not in a mood to jive, then we're out. Now. I'm not going to sit there for a single moment and force my annoyance upon another. Not gonna happen.

Similarly, back to the point at hand, I lean to the "let's just go" method, if things don't look good for optional resolve.

Robin said...

"I've also been in public places WITH the overbearing person... In THOSE situations, I've seen exactly what Micala mentioned; people near us have requested move, and been relocated. A time or two, I've seen people simply walk out. That bugs me. I tend to dine less with those friends."

OMG. Now I know why I haven't dined with Reginald and Micala in a very long time...

That being said; if you are with the loudest person in the restaurant, please let them know. Sometimes I leave my filter at home, I realize only belatedly, and I embarrass rather quickly when I realize I'm the only one enjoying my boorish rambling. When the obnoxious one is someone OTHER than me, I must admit I'm one of the non-confrontational ones who sits and stews or says things *almost* loud enough to be overheard; obviously, that doesn't really get it done. I've never even considered asking to be moved to another table. How obtuse am I?

When I had young ones at my table, however, leaning over and politely asking if someone could adjust their volume so that our family could hear each other over dinner has actually worked. Of course, some McChowderheads just won't give a damn who you are or who you're with. In that case, if you really don't want to up the ante with the anal warts gauntlet, I'd request to be moved as well. It probably won't affect the idiot in the slightest; you, however, will enjoy your meal so much more. You might even ask the boorish idiot's dining companion if he'd like to join you... :)

Barb said...

Probably asking to be moved is the best course of action. If, as is usually the case with us, the restaurant is crowded with tons of people waiting to be seated, moving may not be an option. In that case, I would suggest one of 2 things:
1) Tell your server that you realize a change of table is not feasible at the time, so in lieu of that accommodation, you would like to speak to the manager so that he/she can make an adjustment to the cost of your meal. Or you could threaten to just leave if you haven't received your food yet.
2) Become a part of the loudmouth's conversation. "Oh really? I don't believe I've met Fred." or "Did you really do that? That would have been a gas. Wish I'd been there." or "I'm glad to hear you say that. I always thought Aunt Martha was an old hag. I'm glad someone agrees with me." or something equally as offensive. I've never tried it, but it just might work!

And, Paul, always remember the "I love you, man. You're my brother." incident. That was a total crack-up. Maybe just laughing maniacally at the loudmouth & pointing at him would shut him up?

Mom