I love it when I strike a nerve.
Readers responded to my Ten Commandments of Restaurant Behavior (Taste of the Town, Nov. 23:) with a world of comments and a few commandments of their own.
Several took me to task — as well they should have — for not listing their biggest peeve: noisy neighbors.
"I dine out in Seattle once a week at three-star restaurants and have never experienced any of the things you cite," writes Steve Orton. "What I am experiencing are loud patrons: the socially challenged who don't notice that their voice levels need permanent modulation — like down to the level of a leaf blower. ... The lack of civility here is noticeable and disappointing in a city that has so much else (including great restaurants) going for it."
According to John Boise, the noise factor is especially annoying when it involves a large party and a small restaurant. He wrote to say he would be much obliged if restaurant staff would rise to the admittedly difficult task of asking noisy patrons to tone it down.
Katherine, who left a phone message and a last name I didn't quite catch, surely would agree with John.
"Often," she said, "I dine out with a friend and find a table of six or eight laughing uproariously and shouting back and forth across their table so that we can't have a conversation. I'm an old lady, I admit, and I was taught that ladies don't raise their voices in public. I think that's been long since forgotten."
Sprague Ackley, a former Seattleite living in the South of France, writes: "I cannot help but notice a glaring omission for those who travel to the land where dinner never starts before eight and the table is always yours for the night. Americans are too loud and typically can be heard anywhere in the dining room. It is an embarrassment. Note to your readers: When abroad, speak more softly so that your conversation is no louder than the surrounding tables!"
But enough about noisy grown-ups! What about those noisy kids?
Dale Williams, a local businessman who travels frequently and dines out regularly, wrote to point out a "minor flaw" (I'd call it a major one) regarding Commandment #4: my plea to parents to keep their kids in line. Dale is a parent himself but is appalled by others who allow their children to cry uncontrollably and ruin everyone's meal.
He described a recent experience in an Eastside restaurant where a couple "appeared to be oblivious" to their toddler's "nearly constant blood-curdling screams" — which went on for 20 to 30 minutes. "When a situation such as that occurs, I would add to your commandments that it is the responsibility of the restaurant owner or manager to politely suggest that guests take screaming children to the lobby, or for a short walk outside the restaurant."
Commenting on other not-so-joyful noises, Anna Hiatt says: "I absolutely cringe when restaurants have their staff sing 'Happy Birthday' to anyone and everyone who has had a birthday in the recent past or will have one in the future. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just once in a while, but some establishments go into five or more rounds of it (ahem, Red Robin!), and it can be very annoying to others who are trying to enjoy a meal or quietly celebrate an occasion of their own."
Rude is a four-letter word. Need proof? How about these tales of recent encounters with ill-behaved diners:
"Several weeks ago," writes Joan Palmer, "my husband and I were enjoying our first meal at Le Pichet. All was going beautifully until HE arrived and plopped his rear end on a bar stool. Mr. 'Look at Me I Am So Important' produced his laptop and plugged his telephone into his head. He proceeded not only to conduct business from the bar stool but paced around the place as if he was in his office! I have never seen such rude and disrespectful behavior anywhere."
I have, Joan. It was at tiny Impromptu Wine Bar Cafe in Madison Park, and it involved a middle-age gentleman in a black turtleneck, a cellphone and a 10-minute chat heard throughout the room. Same guy? Coulda been.
"I think it is telling that some diners have to be reminded of common courtesy," writes Chris Nishiwaki, who came close to losing his cool during this rude display last month at Earth & Ocean in the W Hotel: "The lady lunching next to me kept barking instructions to the buser, in slow motion and really loud. I wanted to slap her and explain that English may not be the buser's first language, but he's neither deaf nor dumb."
"Here is another 'commandment' for your column," writes Rose Lewis, manager at West Seattle's Cat's Eye Café: Don't bring outside food and drinks into another establishment." She's posted that request on the door, apparently to little effect: "This morning, two gentlemen came into the café wanting breakfast — great! One of them looked at the sign and proceeded to come in with a coffee drink from another location. When I asked him to please return the drink to his car or, barring that, to at least pour it into one of our coffee cups, he got upset ... spending the breakfast time complaining about the fact that we had 'the nerve' to ask him to remove another vendors' product from the premises.
"It is hard enough in this industry to garner a decent corner of the market — only to get shot down by uncaring or unconsciously rude guests. We sell a great cup of coffee, wonderful espresso and great food, all at realistic prices, so why would I want to advertise someone else's product in my own shop?"
Robin Leventhal, chef/owner at Crave on Capitol Hill, writes, "Thank you for keeping the public privy to our daily challenges and encouraging them to spread a positive experience to all their friends. I thought the column was particularly fitting as just last night I had a violation of Commandment No. 1 ["Honor thy reservation"]: A 7:30 reservation for six people showed up and was apparently now only three people. For my tiny 29-seat restaurant, this really hurt because we had to turn a four-top away as we were holding the tables for the 7:30 reservation. Of course, we bit the bullet and played nice because that is the name of the game."
Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or email@example.com.
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