Why? Because I'm a bad dinner companion?
Yes and no.
Not because of anything I do. My table etiquette is impeccable. I use napkins. I sniff the cap and offer my approval when the server presents a new bottle of ketchup. And farts are kept to a minimum (at least the loud chair rattlers). No, the problem is, at least lately, is that I seem to draw the absolute worst people to the restaurants where I eat, and in uncomfortably close seating proximity. There's no good reason for this. I must be sending out faulty pheromones or something. Here are three recent examples:
- Friday, June 26: Origami Sushi, Hillsborough Avenue - I was sitting next to a family. Mom, dad and three kids. At one point, one of the kids went to the bathroom. When he comes back, his shoes are soaking wet and covered with wet, shredded toilet paper. That's not an exaggeration. I don't mean he had a piece of toilet paper stuck on the bottom of one of his shoes. As he came out of the bathroom, chunks of the sopping wet stuff were falling off and leaving a trail behind him and his shoes were still completely covered in the stuff when he got back to the table. Disgusting. He must have wrapped his feet in toilet paper and then dunked them in the toilet. Gross on so many levels. Of course, the parents didn't even notice. I'd imagine when you have a the kind of kid who wraps his shoes in wet toilet paper, it's a good idea to develop the ability to tune out. You know, as a coping mechanism,
- Saturday, June 27: Gandolfo's New York Deli, Carrollwood - I ordered what was a pretty good hot pastrami sandwich on rye bread. It was ruined by a woman two tables away who cleared her throat, loudly, every 20 seconds or so. Not just a gentle "ahem" but a wet-sounding growl that rumbled up from the bottom of her throat, delivered at least three times a minute.
- Sunday, June 28: Origami Sushi (again), Hillsborough Avenue - What can I say? I was in the mood for sushi that weekend. And with what happened Friday, my craving had yet to be sated. This time it was ruined by a party of six, two moms and four kids, who entered talking, loudly, and never once shut up or even turned down the volume. They were seated at a table for six but immediately started dragging tables around so they could add another to theirs. "We're going to need the room." Already annoying. Then the server came to take their drink orders. One of the kids said, "I want chocolate milk". One of the moms said, "We all want water" to which the kid added "And I want chocolate milk". The server said, "So, six waters..." and the kid interjected yet again "And a chocolate milk." When it was time to order the food, one of the moms piped up with, "Okay, first: no roe. On anything. Even if the recipe calls for it, no roe. I'm serious. And we don't eat the kind with raw fish, so if we order anything accidentally that comes with fish, just leave that out too. No raw fish and no roe. I can't stress how important it is that there is no roe on anything. Also no raw fish but especially the roe. Absolutely no roe whatsoever." How the server resisted the urge to just bring them a giant bowl full of roe, I don't know. Also, while these exchanges were happening, everybody at the table was talking and wanting to be heard so you can just imagine how loud it was. If you're wondering how many people it takes to change the atmosphere in a place from "quiet, little sushi restaurant on a pleasant Sunday evening" to "metropolitan bus station on a holiday weekend", the answer is six. Specifically, these six people.