Family Food

To serve and deflect

If there is one thing in life I have learned, it’s that yelling at your server will rarely yield positive results.

I base this on the fact that (a) I have been a waiter before and (b) I’m a fairly decent human.

My son and I were fortunate enough to witness this type of behavior recently at a restaurant, and, spoiler alert, no positive results were achieved. Unless you consider looking like a boor a positive result.

We were having a burger at a restaurant recently, seated at an outdoor patio. The place is very popular and thus usually quite crowded. We had a little two-top and were enjoying the day when a group of six men entered the patio. They proceeded to pull two smaller tables together and sit down.

A waitress approached them and informed them that they could not put the table together. She was very nice and polite about it, explaining that it was their policy and something about fire code. I don’t know if the fire code part is true or not, but I’m not a fire marshall so it could very well be.

Either way, she pointed to an empty six-top in the corner of the patio and said they could sit there.

“We’re sitting here,” one of the men said. He was clearly the alpha of alphas here.

You could feel all of the conversations around ceasing as everyone started watching as the tension mounted.

“Well, you need to put the tables apart,” she said.

“No, we’re sitting here,” he said.

She was getting ready to check polite at the door. “No, you’re not.” And began to pull the tables apart. At this point, the main alpha began to tell the woman what he thought of her and what she could do and where she could go do it.

He stood up, prompting the mini alphas to follow suit. Several of them had other choice words that they directed to no one in particular. One of them suggested the restaurant itself could go do something.

They left the patio and climbed into their SUV parked near the curb. As they drove off, several of them rolled down their windows and offered up more profanities and some obscene hand gestures just to further prove their really solid point.

I looked across the table at my son. He was staring wide-eyed, trying to process the whole situation that had just unfolded. He began to mimic one of the hand gestures, saying, “Dad, what does this mean?” I quickly reached across the table and folded his hand into a fist. “It means they have no class. And don’t do that.”

The waitress finished reassembling the tables and approached ours.

I figured this was an opportunity to let her know how the rest of her day would go.

“For what it’s worth, we plan on behaving just like them,” I said. A couple at a table next to us overheard that and hollered, “Us too!” An older couple a few tables away said, “Us too!”

A smile came across the waitress’ face, which made me happy. For even the most weathered server, that kind of behavior does take a toll on you, even if it’s just for a moment.

But the rest of the patio had stood in solidarity after the event. Had they not gotten up and left, I’d like to think some of us would have stood up for her on the patio. I’m not sure what I would have said, but perhaps a general, “If you could stop being an awful person for a few moments, that would be great” would have sufficed.

I tried to use this as a teaching moment for my son. The first lesson: Mistreating service industry employees isn’t only a rude and unnecessary thing. It also isn’t going to get your food out faster or your drinks colder. Often, it will result in you not getting anything. Second lesson: When you’re in someone else’s house, you follow their rules. Third lesson: Kindness to those who have been mistreated will sometimes result in a few extra onion rings with your order.

I have no clue where the alpha SUV went off to. I am sure they went to another restaurant, where they were probably just as kind and pleasant as before. Hopefully, before they got there, they stopped at an anger management class.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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