Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The perfect Sunday lunch?

One of our chefs has gone awol. Not a word has been heard from him since his last garbled and really rather peculiar phone call late on Friday afternoon. It's odd, there's no doubting it, but not surprising, chefs do things like that from time to time. I worked with one guy who disappeared for the best part of week only to arrive back into work as if nothing had happened. He used the "family crisis" defense which explains nothing and prevents further poking from curious colleagues and management. The fact that the current milk carton candidate went awol on payday should be taken as a good sign that he will return like a missing dog when he needs fed.

I'm due a "family crisis" of my own. I'm feeling a bit disillusioned with life at my current restaurant. So I've taken a few days off to consider and cogitate, maybe a bit of rumination too. I'm far too lazy to go awol. Going awol involves a degree of planning and no doubt large quantities of alcohol. I cant be mithered with either. But it's time for serious contemplation of where I'm going with this lot.

If last weeks guests were full of mindless chatter and equivocation then this weekends were the exact opposite, quiet to the point of devotional. I mean it was like a meeting of the Marcel Marceau fan club. I welcome quiet guests with open arms. It's good to give the larynx a rest from time to time but good grief not talking to me is one thing but not talking to each other is a bit much. Sundays eh...

There are two main types of Sunday afternoon lunch guest. The first being the smug and relieved hangover free types. They are normally full of chat and wonder about the day ahead, making plans and conversing at a slightly and not so slightly elevated level. The second are those that are suffering and labouring under the heavy yoke of the previous evenings libations. Hangovers and family fun Sundays don't sit well together. The mood is strained and overwrought. Parents snap at their juiced up kids. Parents snap at each other. Parents try not to snap at the waiter. Many fail.

And that's how it was this Sunday. Lots of snapping and simmering rage, not from me I should add. I had one table, mum dad two kids, who said nothing to each other unless it was to snarl a threat. The kids were okay though. They had Nintendo box cube portable 360p's or whatever the hell they are called. They never lifted their noses out of them. Dad just sat there impassive for most of the meal occasionally eyeing up the attractive young woman two tables over. He did seem to spend an inordinate amount of time rubbing the sweat from his face with napkins. I had to furnish him with several more over the hour and a half that he was in. Hangover sweats, nice.

Mum, who was clearly unhappy with how her Sunday lunch with the family was panning out took to chastising the kids and the dad. This got her nowhere and in the end she gave up. I felt sorry for her. Kids more interested in the adventures of mario et al and a husband with a case of the hangover horn. Not what Sunday's are for. Their meal was for the most part was "enjoyed" in silence. I showed up a couple of times and was like a clown at a funeral. I backed away and left them to their unhappiness.

Then there was another couple, mid to late forties, affluent, no obvious sign of hangover who said more to me than they did to each other and they said nothing to me. They both arrived with bundles of newspapers under their respective arms. They ordered almost immediately and independently of each other if you know what I mean. Couples, normally, like to inform each other of their selections before they tell the waiter. But not these kids, hell no. It mattered not if they ended up with the same starter and double vegetables. That's what each of them wanted.

They opened their papers and that was that. Not a word was uttered. Not a column inch nor comment shared. There was not a, "Did you see this?" nor a "Did you see that?" between them. How frightfully odd I thought. I removed their plates and served their coffees. They were, individually, pleasant to me. The atmosphere at their tables wasn't heavy or filled with passive aggression it was just quiet.

I mean what is the point of going out for lunch if you aren't going to talk to each other? Surely the papers are best read on top of your own bed with a glass of wine and the radio on. Works for me. Why go out for lunch if you are going to spend the time letching at the attractive woman two tables over? And shouldn't kids be made to leave the games consoles at home? I wouldn't have got away with it as a child. That said their where no portable games consoles when I was a lad, unless a cup and ball on a string counts?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe talking to each other is overrated because as they left, the paper reading couple, locked hands as they walked out the door. Maybe love is not having to talk to each other. Hell maybe love is a Nintendo box cube portable 360p and a kids sized roast beef with champ and no veg.

33 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Anonymous Boxer said...

I go to lunch because I want/need someone to feed me. I'm a lousy cook so I eat out a lot.

I've had employees go AWOL - and they do the same thing.. return as in nothing was odd. Usually, they turn up just in time for payday.

Manuel said...

boxer: it's not on....I mean it's the brazen attitude that gets me.....

Medbh said...

I know it looks weird to see a couple not talking but we've done it a few times. We both work at home and sometimes, there's just not much to say. Now we've never had a meal without a word exchanged as you describe but we've had quiet meals all the same.

Manuel said...

medbh: to me it;s a sign of strength in a relationship a sign of security.....but then again if you have nothing nice to say and all that.......

MJ said...

Rumination?

Isn't that what cows do?

Are you chewing your cud, Manuel?

Manuel said...

mj: one panicky google search later - it can mean both chewing ones cud, assuming one is a cow and mentally ruminating something over....phew....

daisyfae said...

paints a very depressing picture... i've been part of a "silent" couple before... on some occasions because we were cranky and disconnected, and others because i was with someone i was intimately comfortable with... but depressing...

B said...

I don't speak while eating, anywhere.

Then someone tells me to speak a bit and I decide to say some ideas to them


...they then politely tell me to shut up.

Anyways, I was raised to eat dinner silently watching Thunder in Paradise.

Native Minnow said...

Wait, it's wrong to stare lecherously at the woman two tables over?

Native Minnow said...

Is lecherously even a word?

sheepworrier said...

I always wondered about the couples who sit in silence - and you can always tell the ones who have no interest in eachother, and the ones who are content not to chatter.

Jaysus b, thunder in paradise!? We got to watch UTV news if we were lucky - not the most interesting of shows when you're 6.

BusBus said...

Ah yes, the "family" dinners. I have seen this all too often these days-family out at a nice restaurant, kids playing portable video games, Dad is busy clicking away at his Blackberry, Mum is reading her book.....what's the point? Isn't it easier to order pizza and stay in and do whatever you want there?

toast said...

woah, woah, once again manuel you have manged to press my buttons - and not in a good way - the portable x-stations - are an awseome thing - my wife just spent 48 hours in labour, if i had not had my nintendo and huge supplies of gas and air i would have gone to the pub, the only wonder at all is that our child is not called Mario.

I was lucky as a kid and ate out a lot, usually in hotels, restaurants without hotels attached never really existed outside of belfast in the 70s/80s so the first thing to do was to find the games room and sit there until a parent tracked us down, this would often take them days. If the restaurant didn't have a games room, we just acted the bastard, thats the way things worked.

As for not talking to people? meh, unless you read the sundays, you have no stories anyway, the sunday brunch/lunch is for charging your stories database, so you can talk to others about Darlings loose lips, tragedies on K2 and other issues of the week, with the informed air of a man who has been spoon fed his opinions over a relaxed sunday lunch so he can pass them off as his own later in the week.

Sunday mornings are me time, hangover, pints of soda and lime and the sunday papers, maybe a bit of nintendo later, it could be worse it could be golf - thats not too much to ask

problemchildbride said...

They brought their X boxes? What kind of bullshit's that? Why would their parents let them away with that?

carine said...

I went for lunch with a friend on Sunday and observed exactly the same type of people. They totally bloody freak me out. It's just not right.

Don't leave the restaurant. Your work chat wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if you were an accountant/sales person/bank teller/insert alternative profession here.

x

Manuel said...

daisyfae: it wasn't that depressing just weird.......

b: under the table?

minnow: indubitably.....

sheepo: thunder in paradise? what the hell is it? we got to watch the flicker of the candle or the drip drip drip of the rain.....sniff sniff

busbus: that's exactly it, the whole point of the family outing is lost....

toast: but surely one would stay at home and read the papers then go out for lunch. eh? Do I live in a hallmark card or what?

sam: portable game jobbies......it's not on. One each......eh?

carine: I wont leave restaurants but maybe this restaurant has had all it;s gonna get...

sheepworrier said...

Ah manuel, you poor, deprived child - thunder in paradise was like the A team but with a speed boat... and hulk hogan. What more could a young man want?

You gonna stick around the city centre if you're heading to pastures new?

redleeroy said...

Manuel, if you do leave this joint, you have to go out in style.

A-monumental-take-everyone-with-you-flaming-destructive-abusive-mess.

Or maybe just slip out the kitchen door.

Manuel said...

redleeroy: I like the idea of creating a huge fuck off scene.......but most probably I'd go without telling anyone but the management.......in a way it;s even more dramatic.....

redleeroy said...

yeah I suppose so. And you get the bonus of leaving them in the shits.

Manuel said...

redleeroy: ah but as much as i might want to do that to some people i wouldn't want to do it to them all........damn my conscience

redleeroy said...

your too nice !

Manuel said...

redleeroy: yes, yes I am......

jen said...

'Mithering' is such a great word :-)

I've been on family outings to restaurants with my nieces/nephews (all under 10 years old) and they are never allowed to bring any of that crap with them. Sure, they play up a bit, that's what kids do, but they know that they can't push it too far.

Having said that, if you could bring a Wii into a restaurant, I think my youngest nephew definitely would.

Conan Drumm said...

"time for serious contemplation of where I'm going with this lot"

The least you can do is have a proper break-up with them... "It's not me... it's YOU!" and bring your best tippers to your new place of engagement.

The Idle Wanderer said...

The world of pensions has such marvellous stories as I recall, work there. Or you could join the HR lot for my place - our office is somewhere in Belfast.

I could abuse you for messing up my pay again and never know it!

In all seriousness though... leave your job, then a few weeks later come back one night on the other side of the divide (as a customer, like), and amalgamate every character you have chronicled on this very blog and see how they cope. That would make a good story...

boy_wonder said...

AWOL? You want me and my "friend" to go get him back?

Manuel said...

boy_wonder: did you not see the symbol shining in the sky last night? Yes, go get him!

boy_wonder said...

Check your bin later, he'll be there. Promise.

Manuel said...

jen: believe me the kids that sit there and never move nor speak freak me right out.....as for "mithering" I loved in Manchester for a while...

conan: oh god yes......It's never me....

the idler: nag you get barred for 6 months after you leave....funny you mention your hr department, I have chums who work there......you lot do moan something shocking....

boy wonder: still nothing.....anyway I found him.....

jen said...

You *loved* in Manchester for a bit? There's a story there...

Manuel said...

jen: crikey.......wow subliminal wordplay.....I thought I was over her too..........hehehehe

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