Sunday, 31 October 2010

Table Manners

So, Friday night I went with Andy to a work's do. Being chronically anti-social when off my home territory, I don't particularly enjoy work's dos but as I haven't been to one for ages, I said I'd tag along.

It didn't bode well from the start, not for the vegetarian of us at least, as it was at one of these American-style burger/ steak diners. And it didn't bode well for the sensitive of hearing amongst us, either, it being a big busy place at 8 p.m on a Friday night. So that set me on edge. Twice. Before we'd even got started. But I told myself to be calm, and sociable and not to even THINK about having a panic attack.

We arrived ten minutes ahead of 8, in good time because it is polite, I feel, to be at these places before the time the table has been booked. There were going to be 24 of us altogether, which meant we were piled onto a massive long table, so you could socialise only with people in your immediate environs. By twenty past eight, we were still waiting for some people to arrive.

I was quite hungry at this point, because I am used to eating at 6ish and, in anticipation of a starter and a big sod-off pudding, I'd been frugal with my lunch.

Just after half past eight, the waitress came to take orders. It was at this point the smokers in the party decided it would be a good idea to go outside for a ciggie and one of them said as much to the waitress and could she come back in ten minutes?

WHAT????? NO! I am hungry here, I thought. But I didn't say anything because I was a guest. I merely smiled and set about shuffling cutlery into different arrangements and eating the ice-cubes from my drink.

Needless to say, the waitress didn't return until nearly nine. By which time the smokers were back, no doubt feeling calm and relaxed. I thought, perhaps I should take up smoking? The waitress made her way around the table taking orders for main courses as our end of the table had already established with the far end of the table via the middle section of the table that no-one was having starters, presumably saving up for a pudding (as a vegetarian, I had a massive choice of pudding and by now I was thinking I was going to be in need of one. Or three).

And then, as the waitress made her way around, it became clear that some people hadn't even looked at the menu, let alone decided what they were having. Okay, so as a veggie in a steakhouse my choice was narrowed to three - plain pasta, plain nachos and a veggie burger (surprise!), so the decision for me had been very quick, but even so, we had been sitting there for three quarters of an hour - what on earth had they been doing????

At this point I had a little chew on Andy's jumper. And started folding my napkin into amusing food-shapes. And listened to someone else talk about a cookery book they were writing. Which didn't help.

So, twenty minutes later, waitresses arrived with trays of food. Starters. For the other end of the table. Who had clearly either changed their minds about having starters OR lied about having starters in the first place. Or maybe the 'no starters' rule had been lost in translation a la Chinese whispers by the middle section of the table.

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! We said NO starters! We are HUNGRY at this end of the table. SOME PEOPLE were not playing FAIR.

I considered feigning a hypoglycaemic attack - well, I was on the end of the table, there was plenty of floor space to my right, I'm an ex-drama teacher...

So, finally, the main courses arrived. At ten to ten. TWO HOURS, yes TWO HOURS after we arrived. Ye Gods, I looked at my plate of uninspiring burger, the inadequate pile of 'French Fries', the insipid blob of coleslaw and the very suspicious looking 'could-be-a-gherkin-could-be- a-slug' on the side, and I thought, 'Can I be bothered? Have I gone beyond the point of hunger?'

And to make matters worse, there was no barbeque sauce when it distinctly said on the (sticky - yuk!) menu that my veggie burger would come with barbeque sauce because it was vegetarian sauce so that was all right. And I was REALLY looking forward to the barbecue sauce.

Well, I ate the food, because I was feeling light-headed by now, and to be honest I probably would have gnawed on the leg of a wildebeest had it passed by the table.

AND THEN, after we'd decided down our end of the table that we didn't want puddings now because we had given up the will to live, the other end of the table started ordering puddings. Andy made a very well timed exit decision at this point, probably because he was picking up on my 'tired-and-hacked-off-and-now-I'm- going-to-be-awake-with-indigestion-all night' vibes.

And we smiled and waved and left. And I happened to mention to Andy that if he ever hosts a works do we shall hold it at a proper restaurant, and ban anyone from going out for a cigarette until they have ordered their food and anyone arriving late will be told to go home. And he agreed and patted me on the head and called me a grumpy old bat in a highly affectionate way.

And when we got home we made a nice cup of tea and ate it with some nice chocolate chip shortbread biscuits that I had made earlier in the day.

And now I remember why I don't like going to work's dos.

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