Monday, August 12, 2013

Manners

Maria asked a question about whether a restaurant owner was in the right for posting a photo of a table destroyed by a family with badly behaved children. I started to make a comment, but it ran too long, so i’m making it a blog entry instead.

I am a former server, and badly behaved kids or adults in restaurants have always irked me. The worst experience i had involved a six-year old brat who was so bad (how bad was she?) that every patron at every table around theirs clapped when this party with the brat left.

As a server, i couldn't say much, since i waited tables in the days where the customer was always right, but as a customer, i have had a thing or two to say. The most memorable to date was when we were seated at an outside table. The restaurant was a yuppified burger place that grew from a bar. To our left was a table with a mother and her two kids, about 8 and 10, a boy and girl. The kids clearly felt this meal out was a real treat and were very excited. Looked over the menu and told Mom with bright eyes what they'd like to have. There were about four tables to our right. The one on the end was newly in use with a family who had come from a kid's baseball game. The dad had picked the table, the mom was getting something out of the car, and Johnny Slugger, ran from the car towards the outside seating area. He saw Dad wave to him, and yelled at the top of his lungs as he went past our table. His yell went directly into my ear. Dad wasn't more than 16 feet away, and the kid stopped at our table and insisted on yelling at the top of his voice. Something in me snapped and i, able to match him decibel for decibel yelled, "Unless someone is trying to kill you, there's NO reason to yell this loud when other people are trying to eat their dinner and have a conversation!"

Here, Johnny Slugger turned to look at me, mouth agape. Dad got up and swaggered towards our table. He was about 6'4". He yelled at me, how dare i yell at his son, as he was only five. I replied that at five his son was school aged and if he didn't understand how not using his inside voice in this situation was appropriate, that spoke more to poor parenting than it did to anything else. That how i had as much right to be able to sit outside and enjoy a nice meal with my husband without some brat screaming in my ear and some inept parent upset because i found this sort of behavior entirely unacceptable.

Here, the dad realized i was NOT going to back down. I didn't give a rat's ass that he towered over me by more than a foot. I must have given him what my friends call "the look." Several have told me how frightening it is. As i’ve never seen it, i can’t say what it looks like. Only that it seems to stop people in their tracks. Loudmouth Larry still stood watching me, mouth agape.

"Shut your trap, you're letting flies in," i said to him. He obediently closed his mouth.

The father then looked embarrassed, realizing that i didn't give a toss. That the other diners were looking at him, wondering what he would do. I felt extremely alert and in a nanosecond thought of several different things to do if needed.

Ultimately, the father tried to slink back to his table. He and Loudmouth son were very quiet. They were moved to an inside table (the manager had come outside to witness the last part of the exchange), and the father said to me with a whine, "Well, i hope you're happy--we're moving to an inside table."

I replied, "I'll be happier still to learn i've sustained no hearing loss."

The manager went back inside, presumably to show the relocated party its new table.

The kids at the table to my left were wide-eyed. Himself wanted to dive under the table.

I looked at those kids, and said, "I'm sorry to have added to the disturbance. I noticed that both of you have such nice table manners, and it seems a shame no one seems to notice how well behaved you are, but they notice the loudmouth. I'll be sure to use my inside voice from here on out. Again, i'm very sorry."

The mother smiled, and the kids said that was okay, they thought he was a loudmouth, too, and were glad i said something. How kids like him give all kids a bad name. Out of the mouth of babes…i told them i agreed with them.

The manager came back out and approached our table. He asked me what happened. I provided the facts, and how my ear was still ringing (and it was). The manager then asked if perhaps the problem was that i didn't like kids.

I smiled and said, "If that were the case, i'd have asked for another table at once, as we were seated right next to a table with two children," and here i pointed to the table on my left. The manager looked at them a bit dazed. Clearly, he had overlooked them. "However,” i went on, “these children have demonstrated nothing but excellent table manners. (Here, both kids beamed.) So clearly, my issue is not with children, my issue is with unacceptable behavior. I've demonstrated that perhaps too amply. I have apologized, my apology was accepted, and we have moved on."

Here, the manager looked over at the two kids. They both nodded solemnly. The little girl spoke. “She did say she was sorry, and we said okay. Actually, she used her inside voice all along, except for when that kid screamed in her ear. He was REALLY loud.”

The manager then mumbled well, if there wasn’t anything else…I did ask if our server could perhaps refill my water glass. He seemed glad that the request was a simple one, one that could get things back on track.

The server smirked as she refilled my water glass. She apologized for the boy’s bad behavior, and i said it wasn’t her fault. She asked if we liked the food. We did and said as much.

I haven’t thought about that incident in a long, long time. In writing it out now, i wonder if that’s the first time either of those kids had a stranger who was an adult apologize to them for her behavior. It did change me. Any time now i’m at a restaurant where i see well behaved kids, i always make it a point to tell the parents in front of the children how i appreciate their good manners. Zig Ziegler was right. If we spent half as much time catching people doing something right (and telling them) as we do catching them doing something wrong, the world would be a much better place.

6 comments:

  1. Good for you. I can see it in my mind's eye.

    I once asked a teenager to cease scream laughing at the table right behind me. Politely, and quietly. She did not, and the rest of her party commenced ridiculing our party. The servers and other tables were extremely uncomfortable. I gathered everyone up and we walked out, food on the table. I felt it was a situation best sorted without me. We still frequent the restaurant.

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    1. Joanne, your actions spoke far more loudly than perhaps any words could.

      I remain convinced that Johnny Slugger up until that day never had anyone stand up to him. Himself thought that the dad was contemplating taking a swing at me. He didn't relish coming between me and the dad. I told him i wouldn't expect him too, and i'm glad the dad didn't press his luck. I don't think it would have ended well.

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    1. Sometimes, you just hafta say what's on your mind and let the chips fall where they may.

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  3. Really it was the father who did entirely the wrong thing. He should have spoken to the brat NOT YOU!

    Luckily here in France eating-out is normal, and children are brought up with the knowledge that good behaviour is expected. We've eaten-out a lot recently and always choose a semi outdoor place so that the children can go off and play as soon as they've eaten. I've not encountered a badly behaved child for many years.

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    1. Here, also, Cro, eating out is normal, but not all children are taught good manners.

      We were taught if we didn't behave, we had to sit in the car and wait for the others. I was only in the car once. I don't remember what i did, but i do remember thinking i deserved it.

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