Friday, November 29, 2013

Wisconsin 101: We are not very good at standing up for ourselves

SH and I went to Santa Fe with our friends Pete and Julie. It was a weekend of sleeping late (as late as one can sleep with a skylight right above the bed) and eating. Not much else, which was fine with me, because I can't think of a much better way to spend a weekend.

Mostly, we ate green chile in any variation, but to celebrate Julie's birthday, we went out to one fancy restaurant, where I did not know how to interpret the menu and neither did anyone else. I was with some pretty bright people, so I have to say it wasn't us, it was the menu.

Our waiter patiently explained things to us. When Pete asked about the sea bass, the waiter, whom we'll call Chad, said that the sea bass is "an excellent fish that is redolent of the sea and not too fishy."

The salmon, however, did not "speak of the sea" to Chad. He was very careful to note that was his own experience and our experience might be different. "To me," he said. "The salmon does not speak of the sea to me."

The duck - ah, the discrete elements of the duck dish "allow the duck to do what duck does."

None of us knew what to say to that, although I was dying to ask, "What does duck do?" But I didn't want to look dumb in case everyone else already knew what duck does, so I kept my mouth shut.

I also kept it shut when I got my pork, which had a weird texture. I couldn't figure it out. I tasted a little piece and I didn't like it, so I ate the rest of the food on  my plate and some of SH's food. By the end of the meal - pork chop untouched - SH and I had figured it out: it was undercooked.

Undercooked meat really grosses me out.

But SH said we would just take it home and cook it and it would be fine. And that is what we did do in the end.

But in the meantime, Julie told me I needed to say something.

I didn't want to say anything at this point because there really wasn't anything to be done. The time to have said something was when I first tried it, but I didn't know what was wrong with it. I do not mind at all complaining about something when I am on solid ground, but if I think, "I just don't like this," I don't feel I can complain - I just feel that I have chosen unwisely.

But the pressure got to me and I said something to the busboy, who holds all the power. "Tell the cook that next time, he should cook the pork more," I suggested.

The busboy looked startled, but nodded, took my plate, and left. There. I was done. Confrontation dealt with and over.

Then Chad returned. "And how was everything?" he asked.

I felt a kick under the table.

I hesitated. Then spoke. After all, this was not an inexpensive meal. "I think my pork chop was undercooked," I confessed. "It wasn't very good."

Chad stared at me,silent for two whole seconds, which is a long time when a stranger is staring at you. Then he scolded me, telling me that the time to have told him was when I got the pork chop, not now. Which of course I knew. I felt my face get red. Nothing like a little shaming to keep me in line.

But I defended myself. "It took me a while to figure out what the problem was," I said.

He sighed. After a great deal of explaining of how things work at a fine restaurant, he said, "I could take your meal off the bill."

I reddened further. "That's not what I was intending," I said. "I just wanted to let you know." By now I was regretting ever having opened my mouth. I hadn't even thought of having it taken off the bill, especially because I had eaten everything else and intended to take the leftovers with me. I wasn't trying to get out of paying what I rightfully owed.

I just wanted to tell someone so they wouldn't do it again. It is one of my greatest joys to point out when other people are wrong, but I so seldom indulge myself, as it is not a good way to keep friends and friends are more important than being right.

He gave a tiny, almost imperceptible shake of the head, and walked away.

I just wanted to escape.

Three minutes later, the chef came out. She was concerned about my pork chop. Apologetic. I just wanted to stop talking about the darn meat.

"Your dessert is on me," she said.

Well OK. That's fine. We had planned to order one dessert for the table, but were having a hard time choosing. If we were going to get a free dessert, we would take two.

Chad returned after the chef had left. "I'm going to treat you to dessert," he said.

Wow! Even better! Two free desserts.

We ate our desserts.

Chad brought the check.

The pork chop was still on the bill.

As were both desserts.

That's when I said screw it. I am done. I am not setting myself up for scolding by strangers any more.

But I am not going back to that restaurant.


elke said...

You could post this on Urbanspoon, to head off other diners. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and all. I cringed in sympathy, reading this.

Joy said...

Oh my god. I would have said something about the bill. TWO staff members promised you free dessert and then they charged you? I hope you reduced the tip accordingly. Chad is a jerk.

pam said...

I hope you spoke up about the promised comped desserts as well. The chef was rightly appalled, and you were right to mention the undercooked pork, because that can present a serious problem. Since this is rather well known, that's probably why you had such a hard time identifying the issue--you've likely never had undercooked pork in your life--it's a big deal. Yelp is another outlet, if you feel like serving your revenge cold. There is absolutely no excuse for your having been shamed/"educated" by your server. At that point, the manager needed to become involved and perhaps your entire party's meal comped. Unacceptable. I'm so sorry you had this experience.

pam said...

And, by the way, you are not _from_ Wisconsin. You are from the south--Memphis, isn't it?--with roots/experience in Texas, so, dear, you have no excuse for taking that kind of guff from anyone. Neither Southern women nor Texans would abide that. You are made of stronger stuff. Remember yourself.

Class factotum said...

We should have had free dessert! I am still cranky. And I am really cranky at myself for being such a spineless ninny. Pam is right - I am a Texan - but have I lost my backbone after five years up north. Shame on me.

pam said...

Well, dear, you obviously need to come home for a topping-up of your Texan tank. And please let me know when you do; I would love to meet you.

(But I will admit to being much better at standing up for other people than I am at standing up for myself, so maybe there's that in you, too.)

Class factotum said...

Pam, I do need to go to Texas. I miss it. If Rice goes to a bowl game in Dallas, we might go to the game. I would love to meet you!

(PS I am also better at standing up for others.)

(PPS Are you on facebook?)

John0 Juanderlust said...

I am concerned that your waiter is one to whom salmon speak. If only he'd spoken to the pork he would have known the problem. It would have spoken to him of potential disease. And possibly, of course, of the sea. Waitstaff who chat with your food bear watching.

Anonymous said...

You were in Santa Fe! I could have met you! (Well, being an introvert, I wouldn't have made the effort, but, I could have told you where to get a better meal!)

(Maybe. But, then again, I don't frequent the fancy restaurants, so you might have been out of luck anyway.)

- Sneezie

Class factotum said...

Sneezie, we could have met for five minutes, which would have been just enough for an introvert!