Thursday, July 16, 2015

What's Wrong With People?

For those of you who bless me by reading my stuff, you know that I can find humor in just about every situation...from dark to silly, slapstick to sentimental, I can find the funny.

I have been sitting on this recent experience for a couple days now and it just ain't funny.

Let me tell you what happened, and you can share if you think I'm getting too thin skinned in my middle age...once upon a Tuesday night, Bill and I hosted dear friends from Paris and their traveling companions to dinner in the North End.  As this was their first time in Boston and earlier, I ran them ragged about the city, giving them my insider's tour,  I was excited to bring them into this quintessentially comforting section of our fair city and a guaranteed delicious meal.

I am a foodie...I know quite a bit about wine, food service and the hospitality industry, so my choice of restaurant was calculated...can you sense the foreshadowing... I won't reveal the name of the restaurant, yet, as I am waiting to hear back from the owner or management...but I am getting ahead of myself.

As I often do when we have more than four people in our party, I booked the reservation on Open Table.  It gives the restaurant a heads up, I can make changes or notify them of special occasions, allergies and food I did for that evening because there were both...a vegetarian (who enjoys fish) and a nut allergy...I got my confirmation and we were good to go.

Like I said, I had run these folks ragged on a humid afternoon, up and down the cobbled hills of Beacon Hill, on through the Commons and Public Garden up and down Newbury Street and Boylston...I was jazzed to share the sights and sounds...they were pooped.  So, once we sat down and our waiter came to the table...he was very handsome and charming...we ordered ice water and I introduced our guests from Europe...Berlin by way of Paris and Geneva, also by way of France.  I ordered a bottle of Prosecco for the table so we might toast the day.  What I failed to anticipate was that for some in our party from France, drinking Prosecco is akin to drinking a wine cooler...but they raised their glasses and we talked about sparkling wines...being wine snobs and so on.  We had fun with it!

We ordered our appetizers and my friend from Paris/Berlin asked if one of his companions might do the honors in selecting the wine...this is usually my territory, but I deferred and this very knowledgeable woman selected a 2009 Nebbiolo...and we all got excited...but our excitement tempered when a large party of 9 or 10 were seated next to us.  They laughed a little too loudly and attempted to have conversations over each other and across the tables...insert eye roll....I found that when folks at my table seated across from me were speaking, I had to lean way in to hear.  Culturally, Europeans tend to converse  tête-à-tête...quietly, need for your neighbors to know your business. Our neighbors on the other hand wanted the whole world to know just how jolly they were.  Irksome.

When our charming and handsome waiter returned to the table with our wine, he poured  some into our expert's glass...without presenting the bottle for her inspection.  After smelling and tasting the wine, she asked politely, in her best English, to see the bottle and I knew something was up.  He brought a 2011 instead of the a couple of points here...this lady knows wine!!!!, and whenever an establishment has a wine list and they do not bring the wine listed, it is common courtesy to first let the patrons know of the substitution AND tell you what the price of the bottle being offered is.  This is where things start to go south, as I say.  Waiter Charming tried to explain that the year doesn't matter...(wrong)...that they sold the last bottle of 2009 YESTERDAY (bullsh*t)...he has no control over pricing the wine (then bring me the person who does)...what he did do right was offer to bring the wine list back but seeing how he handled the situation and crankiness setting in, we opted to drink the wine offered.  Okay...a hiccup, right?

Our neighbors, in a very short amount of time had cocktails and wine in hand and were making quick work of it all...and refills were at the ready.  In the restaurant biz, the bar and wine list are huge profit centers...which is absolutely fine...but when restaurants over becomes a big problem.

With our appetizers presented, Charming asked if we wanted to place our entree orders...ironically, he had to ask the ladies at the end of the table twice what they wanted and he confirmed the entire order with me as I was seated at the end of the table closest to him, because even he couldn't hear us due to the cacophony coming from a foot away.

At this point, I sensed I had "put a puss on", as I had direct line of sight to the gesticulating loudmouth couple who just had to laugh harder and screech louder, as being the center of their world was all important.  My face must have read like a book because a man seated next to Mr. Devil May Care, said, "Come on... they are gonna kick us outta this place."...which made Mrs. Devil May Care shriek with laughter and get louder.

Pretty much all conversation ceased our table...we actually started texting with each other...and I NEVER text at the table...I, to my discredit, checked in on Facebook with a snarky comment about our neighbors, something about them being " Massholes"...and later posted and apology...I was not myself in that situation...Our neighbors seemed to be on the same course as us so when their appetizers arrived, the noise decreased to a dull roar...a bevy of biddies at the end of the table started up a a normal decibel but Mrs. DMC wasn't seated near them, so she kept hurling, "What? WHaaat? WHAT!?" at them...

Our dinners arrived...everyone got what they requested, thank goodness...and as this is an Italian establishment,  cracked pepper and Parmesan were proffered, accepted and... forgotten...our waiter never returned to the table...he was having too much fun taking selfies, bringing complimentary Grappa and Limoncello to the obnoxiously loud party.  We had finished our bottle of wine and were never asked if we wanted more...we did get constant refills of water from the bus man, even he rolled his eyes apologetically... but once Waiter Charming started joining in the fracas, laughing and taking selfies with the others, I had to do something...he took a group picture of both parties, us and the beginning of the problem right...but when he is having so much fun that other patrons are neglected...that's when I had enough...I was so upset, I was becoming ill.  I was embarrassed before my guests and ashamed that people in Boston would behave this way and infuriated that the restaurant would allow such boorish, invasive and down right rude behavior to continue...and with free drinks... to encourage it.

I excused myself from the husband asked where I was the restroom was the response and the truth...BUT on my way back I asked to speak to a manager.  Lo and behold, there was no manager on that night.  The bartender asked me if she could help and I explained my plight.  I assured her that I understood that the restaurant is not responsible for the content of the character of their patrons, but they are responsible for the comfort and enjoyment of all paying customers...not just those who think they are having a private party with puzzled onlookers...she noted that others had left because of the ruckus but because she was behind the bar at the back of restaurant she was not aware of how loud things this point Waiter Charming sees me talking to the bartender...although not Italian, I do speak with my hands...he got the point that I wasn't swapping cocktail recipes.  He came over and before I could say anything...asked me why if we were so uncomfortable with the noise...didn't we say something sooner...he would have moved a table two feet away from the loud party...BIG MISTAKE...the bartender started to speak...but I put up my hand and with other, gently placed it on his arm...and said...I am speaking up now...if you had bothered to return to our table with cheese and pepper requested, I would have said something then, but you were having such a good time taking selfies and over serving alcohol to our friends there...I found that this was most opportune time to speak to someone.  I get that you want everyone to be make a living doing this...but this one large of group is not paying for all your need to attend to every paying customer with the same pleasure.  Please do not blame me for your lack of attention.

I went on to state that this is their restaurant...they set the mood...they cater to the clientele...all clientele...and if you are happy that half of your clients are being disturbed and ignored...then you've met your goal.  I think the owner or manager may have different goal.  To which Charming asked..."So what would you do?"  I said," I'd be happy to tell, but shouldn't you be asking your manager that question?"   Off he went to call his manager...the bartender asked me what would I do...and I said, "I'd go over to the table and tell them I am happy they are having  such a good time, but the excitement is overwhelming our small space and would they like some coffee or tea as they make their conversations quieter?"  No need to say anyone is need to scold anyone...just create the meantime...Waiter Charming becomes a tattletale...and goes over to Mr. DMC to say I am complaining...I go back to my seat only hear our rude neighbors shushing me as I walk by...and in stage whispers...oh no we have to be waiter also belatedly brought cheese to our empty half-finished pasta was removed from the table while I was gone, and he had the temerity to ask my guest why didn't he speak up...he should have said something earlier...the waiter was blaming my guest for the situation we found ourselves husband said enough...he went off to pay for the meal...just as we were getting up, Waiter Charming runs over and throws dessert plates forks on the table and plunks three pieces of cake saying that the table next to us was sorry we were upset (bullsh*t) and bought us dessert...I said no thank you...he said it's free...I said we're done...he walked away leaving the dessert and not bothering to offer coffee...and Bill was still waiting to pay for our meals...The women at our table refused to eat the offering, as we were insulted by trivializing our discomfort...the two seated gentlemen felt refusing the offering would be an they ate it...even if I wanted to, I would not have been able to eat as there were nuts in it...we then left...the food was delicious but the night was ruined...our tab was over $350...and the tip was sufficient, not the normally generous 25% we leave...we didn't want to not tip as there were some people who actually did their was a way to show our dissatisfaction.

We walked along the waterfront and my gracious friends looked around at the gardens and architecture and talked of returning to Boston again...the tension slowly lessening...the city soothing the citizens...

I couldn't sleep...I wrote letters in my mind...practiced the discussion I might have with the owner...outline the blog I would write...practiced the review I would write on Open Table..  I woke from the fitful night with a "post wedding reception" sore know the kind you get from shouting over the band at a function hall...and my stomach was still upset...poor me...I contemplated my complaint  over a cup of hot tea.  Before I did anything, I first touched base with my brother-in-law, a chef/owner down in Newport News, VA and asked him how would he prefer a patron to communicate about the less than expected dining experience...I knew the answer before I asked him, but I wanted to cool down before acting and I wanted perspective...I got very good I am waiting for my call to be returned...

So what do you think?  When did being rude become an entitlement?  Should I have said something to the offenders?  And, if you have ever found yourself in a party of Devil May did you handle it?  Discuss!

Thanks and cheers!