Loud people who don’t care can ruin a meal

Oh, baby, be quiet. (From GotYa.blogspot.com)

Oh, baby, be quiet. (From GotYa.blogspot.com)

A loud guy has everybody in the restaurant wincing and making eye contact.

What do you do?

My good blogging friend Ann Koplow brought up that scenario yesterday in her wonderful post on Years of Living Non-Judgmentally. You can check it out here.

In her sticky wicket, everybody else in the restaurant just toughed it out. Since Ann and her BF Michael were seated closest to the bellower, she even shared a ‘Dorothy Parker moment’ with the loud one.

Her story led me to comment that I think a staffer should have politely mentioned to the man who well his voice carries in a restaurant, and tip-toe to the suggestion that he lower the volume level.

But that suggestion brought to mind the five nights my dear wife Karen and I spent on a Royal Caribbean ship going from New Jersey to Bermuda and back. It was my first cruise. My not-yet-dear-wife and I were two of 20 or so cruisers from Syracuse, split into two tables in the dining room.

On Royal Caribbean they assign you tables, where you sit with the same folks every night of the cruise. (We’ve done the free-stylin’ manner on Norwegian afterward, and I like the assigned seating better, as an aside.)

On this cruise, the party at the table next to us appeared to be a big, happy family.

One couple brought their toddler along, a kid who hadn’t yet picked up enough words to join in the conversation.

So this one-plus-year-old shrieked instead.

Every couple of minutes, his little but loud voice pierced the air between our tables. The first night. The second night.

On the third night, the couple and the kid did not come to dinner. Oh, how glorious it was, to talk amongst ourselves in peace. I felt like a big boy at the adult table. We all left to attend that night’s show with a bigger spring to our steps.

Night four, the kid was back. And he seemed louder than ever.

We called the head waiter over and politely pointed out the din. We wondered if he could ask them to take the child to eat somewhere else. The a la carte restaurant. The chairs next to the pool. A lounge. Their state room. Anyplace where we couldn’t hear that on-the-minute shriek in the formal dining room.

The head waiter would not.

Come dessert time, the gentleman in our group seated to the left of me had his eardrums pierced by one shriek too many. He wheeled around and did what the head waiter would not. Only he was way beyond politeness. Shouting ensued. Karen kept a tight grip on my arm and stare into my eyes to keep me rooted in my chair.

The family stalked out.

Several tables of strangers around us clapped.

Several other tables around us pointed and called us baby-haters.

That was not pleasurable. And we still had two more nights of dining next to this family and the shrieking kid.

I blamed the head waiter for avoiding his duties. I gave his tip at the end of the last night to our waiter, who was wonderful, had to endure the loud baby, and whispered how he was on our side in the matter.

What would you have done in this situation? What do you do when you encounter loud people in a restaurant?

Source for the baby photo

45 thoughts on “Loud people who don’t care can ruin a meal

  1. Pingback: Loud people who don’t care can ruin a meal | Marthakeimstlouis's Blog

  2. After finally pulling myself away from the Miranda videos, here I am.

    I would have rolled my eyes and not said anything. However, if the opportunity came, I would have been a little bit more polite about it. It’s easy for others to designate nicknames like Baby Haters, but those people were not sitting next to the baby. It’s a tough call, but sometimes it has to be done.

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  3. I was always embarrassed when my young children let loose, I was like most parents, willing to take them out of the situation. Sometimes a walk would put them to sleep, sometime a ‘bribe’ or positive reinforcement would help. This baby could have been teething or something, a toddler may need a nap. But always, I think parents should be considerate of others around them!! I would have kept quiet as a waiter, as a server or even a hostess. It is up to the parents, in my opinion or manager (I am not sure who is above the head waiter, on a cruise, who else could have handled this?) As a paeon, at the bottom of the food chain, I ignored a lot in my over 20 years, mainly summers, of waiting tables… Smiles, Robin

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    • Oh, we complained up the chain of command and on the comment sheets after the cruise, too. This child was not teething or in pain. He used shrieking because he had not words. That was obvious. My ears still remember the sound. I think Royal Caribbean may have learned to seat all diners with toddlers in the same section of the dining room. Thanks, Robin, for telling me what a waitress thinks of the situation.

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      • I am so glad that you were proactive. Yes, there should be offers by staff to take the food to go to another area like you mentioned in your post. But, I appreciate your not minding my input from the wait staff’s viewpoint. As a parent, I would be embarrassed and as a person trying to enjoy my meal, I would have asked (in a restaurant) for them to ‘pack up my food to go.’ On the cruise ship, it is too bad, this happened more than once! They should have figured out a strategy, Mark!! Smiles, Robin

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  4. I would have been applauding. Why take a toddler on a cruise?! When my two were little and behaved in that way I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me – I would have been out of that dining room as fast as my little legs would carry me -with screaming child and would have had room service every night.

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  5. this is always a tough situation, but i think that people should be thoughtful of how they are affecting others when in a public place. when we went out and our kids were young, if they were having a bad moment or day or night or tantrum, we simply left. to stay would not have been good for anyone. when you have young children, you know you are rolling the dice and have to be willing to lose at times. it doesn’t last forever. too bad the waiter didn’t intervene it would have made it easier for the other diners –

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    • The problem with these folks is that they thought it was said toddler being adorable or something while everybody around them sat with the Oh-No Face. The dining room structure on the ship is that every day the head waiter assigned to your section comes up once and asks how everybody is doing. The guy in our section asked and didn’t care when we complained.

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  6. Probably a word with the captain of the ship would have helped in that situation Mark. I have been seated in restaurants before, given my order to the waiter, and when the people around me, especially uncontrolled kids start acting up and management won’t do anything, I get up and leave. That leaves the restaurant having to decide it they want to lose the business of a table for 12 well-behaved people who just walked out before receiving the food they had ordered, or one table of 4 who caused the larger party to walk out, leaving them with a large amount of food that could not be served. Plus, no tips from the 12, while the 4 didn’t look like they would be huge tippers. Doesn’t work to speak to the waiter, head waiter or not, speak to the manager, the chef who is cooking food that will not be eaten if the noise continues. As you said, there are other places on the ship to eat, and there are other restaurants in town. Restaurants live or die by the bottom line, and if they get the reputation of allowing that much unruly noise, they can only blame themselves if they die.

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    • You are so right, Angie, with the principle that money talks. On a ship, though, they have your money beforehand. I guess they should have the incentive of getting you to come back. Which we do, almost every year.

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  7. I honestly don’t know what I would have done Mark. What bothers me, and I’m assuming many others, isn’t the child per se….but the parents total disregard for the effect it was having on everyone around them. From your story it doesn’t sound like the parents made any attempts to quiet, soothe or distract their child. I probably wouldn’t have said anything….not that I wouldn’t have wanted to. Actually, maybe what I would have done if given the chance, was say something outside of the dining room if I ran in to the parents. Oh so difficult!!!!

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    • The whole family appeared to think the child was the cutest thing ever, and laughed at times when he shrieked. They were oblivious to audible groans from our table. They could see us talking to the head waiter, probably hear us, too. They just thought we were the ones in the wrong for not delighting in a shrieking toddler. Yes, difficult, Colleen.

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      • That’s a shame Mark. People put a lot of money in to their vacations and get aways. And having someone else be totally irresponsible seems quite unfair. I can’t imagine allowing my child to shriek uncontrollably in a room full of other people. I am very tolerant of others when we are out. And I appreciate that sometimes children are sad, scared, uncomfortable, and parents try to do what they can. Apologetic parents get my sympathy and support. Parents like this ….nope.

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      • A one-time thing, I’m sympathetic with parents, like you say, Colleen. It became apparent this was going to be the norm every formal dinner, and the parents were going to dig in and be in the right.

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  8. Great post, Mark. (And thanks so much for the kind shout-out.) Another sticky wicket, huh? Much stickier, because it involved kids.

    Now I understand, even better, your response to my post about encountering a loud and drunk diner on Friday night. I do believe that — if we had asked the staff to speak to our Loud Guy — they would have done something. Otherwise, I would not have been able to return to that restaurant.

    I wanted to tell you this, too: On my plane ride home from Panama, there was a little kid who was screaming, non-stop, for the first part of the flight. I observed people (1) trying to come up with solutions and (2) having feelings about those who were perceived to have power to change the situation.

    I think we, as humans, are hard-wired to freak out in response to a baby’s cry. (Survival of the species, and all that.) So it really puts people on edge, to hear that. And parents often react strongly, too, because of having been in situations where they can’t get their kids to stop screaming.

    What helped me, on that plane? To think about Bill Cosby’s routine about Jeffrey, the little kid on the plane, who would not stop screaming, and how everybody started to “loathe and fear Jeffrey.” Because there was really nothing else, in that situation, that I could do.

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  9. I think I would have had a visit with the head waiter’s boss after night 2. I would have withheld all tips. Then probably “accidentally spilled something awful on the parents so they had to leave.

    You reminded me of another equally annoying scenario. This one occurs every Christmas. The season of peace, joy, love, and scads of shoppers. Women pushing their babies in strollers continually running into the back of your legs and achilles tendon without so much as a I’m sorry. I’ve had some choice words for them. At least I didn’t have to sit with them every night. That’s why I don’t cruise.

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    • Oh, the head waiter knew of our displeasure after day two. We thought it was solved when they were absent from night three. But in the end, the head waiter preferred to do nothing, making us look like the bad guys.

      I still like taking cruises, nevertheless.

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  10. Belligerence is unacceptable for over 5 minutes be it a loud adult or small child.
    I, however, had the opposite problem yesterday at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at a bar. A live band was playing and a young mother and her newborn were in the middle of the room. I could just feel the brand new baby’s eardrums breaking, I know mine were! I eventually said something to her. She got all mad, but hopefully she will think about it next time.

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  11. I would have done exactly what you and Karen did. I don’t understand people that don’t seem to care that their child or children are annoying/bothering/upsetting other patrons. (I think they deserved to be yelled at).

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