When questions of dining etiquette arise, it's rare that everybody in a restaurant handles it wrong. But when it comes to screaming children, I guess anybody can lose his mind.
A couple told me the story of their recent Friday night out, during which one table held a restaurant hostage at the dinner hour. The players: a woman and her shrieking baby at the table in question, an irate woman at an adjacent table, and a passive restaurant manager. You can probably guess how the story unfolded.
The woman with the shrieking baby apparently was not interested in mollifying her child, but instead was considering it a game. She was certainly a party to getting the baby riled up.Soon, the woman and her baby had the focus of the entire restaurant.
So far, only one party is off-base in this scenario. But here's where everything started to go sideways: The woman at the adjacent table asked to speak to the manager. The conversation with the manager quickly turned into a screaming fit as the woman said, loudly enough for several tables nearby to hear (including my friends), "I pay good money to come here. My dinner is being ruined." The point is valid; the volume is not.
The manager listened and then either chose to do nothing or was called away to deal with an urgent restaurant matter -- meaning he chose to do nothing. After another 15 minutes, the baby's mother finished her meal, paid her check and began to walk toward the door. The angry diner got up and followed her to the door, where she berated the woman for ruining her dinner. The woman quickly left, and the angry diner sat back down in a room now brimming with tension.
Two people shouted (albeit, one was likely under the age of 1, and screaming is a favorite form of communication for babies), and one was silent. All contributed to a bad situation. The mommy diner should have made an effort to keep the noise at her table down, and the manager just avoided conflict. He has to pick a side there. I maintain the angry diner needed some perspective.
Is it ever OK to chastise the table next to you?
[Image via Flickr: clairity]