Monday, August 31, 2009

Tea and Sympathy

In these tough times I find that my family and I take a rooting interest in the continued well being of our small local businesses. Thus, as my mom, Richie, Jo and I sat down to eat at a local Greek restaurant, Richie remarked how glad he was to see the place with some activity. Soon, there would be a little too much.

We all tend to set a timer for when each course should be placed before us. As the minutes passed and no food appeared, the conversation started to turn to the delay. While my wife and son were particularly patient and forgiving, almost nurturing in their sense of caring for the establishment, I started to get cranky. I was about to get a lesson in why I should just shut up and wait.

The noise level from the table behind us rose dramatically. First, the husband started with his animated complaints about the quality of the food. Then, in an ever increasing pitch, the wife began. She took nasty to a new level, announcing her disgust over and over, each succeeding time with a little more force. The owner of the restaurant, who had now come over to try to soothe the beast, was in full retreat. His apologies for the perceived wrong done to his customers only stirred them to greater levels of indignity. It was the ugly American on full display.

The show went on for at least 5 minutes. With each respite, we took a breath. Then it would begin anew. We heard the arguments for the second time about not paying the bill, saw the family get up and finally, finally depart.

Richie almost physically recoils from this type of confrontation. He was shaken by what happened around him. While I was still part alpha, and ready to begin my own muted version of this dance with the proprietor because of the delay in service, Jo and Richie counseled otherwise. Just sit and wait. We had no where to go.

A few minutes later our food arrived. The owner came to our table to ask how we were doing. The conversation turned to the scene we had just witnessed, and we questioned if there was a problem in the backroom.

We were told that the chef was having marital problems. It seemed that while he was still in love with his wife, the feelings were not reciprocated. He was crying uncontrollably. The owner had tried to calm the beleaguered employee, but it had been difficult. Life, it turned out, was the basis for the delay.

We became instant friends with the boss as we told him it was ok, everyone had a bad day and we understood. The dessert and tea were compliments of the owner. The waitress and hostess were smiling and laughing with us. We waved our goodbyes and promised to return soon.

The lesson, reinforced last night, was in the value of kindness and sympathy. The family that exited in a storm of angry rhetoric, will never feel gratitude like that shown us. While they may have left the restaurant with their money in their pockets, they went home poorer by far.


Anonymous said...

Robert please don't be jealous, We were eating at the Metropolitan Museum on Saturday. Our food was very late. Without even asking the Manager said the meal was on the house. We said thank you but the Nussbaums might be Jealous.

Robert said...

Can I get the phone number of that manager? I have to make a reservation.