Man Overboard

Richard Quinn

I’M IN THE SOUP—again. Italian wedding soup, to be precise.

On special occasions, my wife and I enjoy going to a fine-dining restaurant. By this, I mean a calm, quiet atmosphere with ambiance, white tablecloths, no need to ask for the water glass to be refilled, more than one server for your table, an extensive wine list and good, creative food. Generally, such a place will attract people with similar objectives for the night. They dress and behave appropriately—or used to.

Recently, my wife and I dined at an upscale Italian restaurant. The least-expensive glass of wine was $14. Entrees ranged from $34 to $59. The service and food were excellent. The bill for dinner—with one glass of wine apiece—was about $200.

After we were seated, three couples with three children arrived. They were wearing jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts. Most annoying was the guy wearing his baseball cap—backward—throughout dinner. I Googled it, and it’s still considered rude. In addition, one of the children was constantly running around the tables and nearly tripping the servers. For us, this brought the atmosphere down a notch.

Last December, for our anniversary, we were in another restaurant, one even better than  this recent one. A couple sat next to us, with the guy wearing a hoody throughout the meal.

In both cases, I suspect, the restaurant would rather avoid that kind of dress. But they’re in no position to turn customers away, especially these days.

As far as getting into the soup goes, I posted my experiences and feelings on a Facebook restaurant group. I’ll never learn. Within hours, there were over 150 comments, 99% of which defended the offending diners.

One commenter thought the diners may have been poor, had received a gift certificate and couldn’t afford nice clothes. Another suggested the guy with the hat probably was sick and too embarrassed to remove it. I was told that I hated children and shouldn’t dine early to get the early bird special—or any special, for that matter.

We are a nation built on excuses, financial and otherwise.

“Children will be children,” I was told. Underlying themes included “times have changed,” “get with it” and “mind your own business.” Most Facebook commenters said they didn’t care and didn’t look at other diners. So much for quiet ambiance.

In the olden days—meaning 40 or 50 years ago—when we took our four small children to a nice restaurant, they were appropriately dressed, sat on their chairs and their food was ordered from the regular menu. No spaghetti with butter. No chicken fingers. And they didn’t have an iPad or iPhone perched in front of them to keep them quiet. It became a thing in our family. When a person came by our table and complimented them, we gave them each a dime—just like John D. Rockefeller.

I have a theory as to why we leave this world when we get old. It’s not our bodies wearing out. It’s the frustrating behavior of the generations that follow. If we didn’t die naturally, we would eventually jump into the ocean on the next cruise.

Our next cruise is booked for September. I hope there are no baseball caps or hoodies in the upscale dining venues we’ve reserved. The North Atlantic is cold.

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