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    Restaurant Etiquette

    I have at least two etiquette books around here somewhere, but this question is not likely to be in either of them.

    Here is the scenario:
    My brother and I often eat dinner together at a local coffee shop because that is the only time that we talk with each other. We tend to eat around 8PM and said coffee shop is often almost empty by that time. We will sit and converse freely and relax, etc. Sometimes another party of two will enter and the staff will tell them to sit anywhere they choose. So here is my question:

    While it may not be rude for them to sit right next to us; would it not be better manners to purposely give us (and themselves, for that matter) some space so that we may all converse freely? Sometimes I have my jacket hanging on the edge of the bench "between" the booths and I have to move it so that the other person can sit there. Why on earth cannot they just sit one more booth over instead of sitting right on top of us?

    Am I being misanthropic or am I making sense here? Would it not be courteous for the other party to leave an empty booth between us? I am a former Mensa member, so perhaps I am expecting too much?

    My brother gets embarrassed and angry with me if I want to move over after we have been seated, etc.

    SIGH!!
    Last edited by Menschenstimme; 10-14-2010, 10:59 PM.

    #2
    I can think of another similar example of this phenomena. I like cars, and my cars are my pride and joy. So in order to minimize the chance of someone dinging or denting my car whilst they open the door of their car, I will choose to park in a quiet corner of the hypermarket car park where there are no or hardly any other vehicles. Many a time I will come back and find two cars on either side despite there being plenty of spaces nearer the entrance (?!!)

    I blame it on what I call "flocking mentality". The subconscious need to gravitate to a a group of people rather than inhabit a space that is without others. Must be some kind of pre-historic thing where cavemen found it safer to stay amongst others rather than "going it alone"!
    1971 Allen Organ TC-3S (#42904) w/sequential capture system.
    Speakers: x1 Model 100 Gyro, x1 Model 105 & x3 Model 108.

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      #3
      I suspect you are right, nullogik--Humanity is made up of two distinct types: "herd" people and "loners". And it does not have any connection with masculinity or femininity--my dad was one of the most masculine men I ever knew, but he absolutely was incapable of entertaining himself; he did not want to be alone. My mom and I, however, are (were) quite content to be solitary, although we also enjoyed company.

      Regarding the original question, Menschenstimme, I don't think it rude or poor manners for others to sit near you. Chances are that they don't even realize they are doing so. And if they are, perhaps they are doing it to make the rest of the space more available for other customers (should any arrive). If this makes you uncomfortable, since you and your brother are frequent patrons, perhaps you could discuss this with the restaurant staff and request that they actually seat people instead of just telling them to "sit anywhere they choose". And it might also be better if you chose seating away from windows (lots of people like to look out) or in poorer light (most people want to read the menu).

      Yes, some of those options do put some of the onus on you to perhaps change your modus operandi, and you may be unwilling to do that. The first option (asking the staff to direct patrons away from you) avoids that necessity.

      David
      Last edited by davidecasteel; 10-14-2010, 11:47 PM.

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        #4
        This behaviour changes with lattitude. More south, people cluster together more than up north.

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          #5
          Originally posted by Menschenstimme View Post
          While it may not be rude for them to sit right next to us; would it not be better manners to purposely give us (and themselves, for that matter) some space so that we may all converse freely? Sometimes I have my jacket hanging on the edge of the bench "between" the booths and I have to move it so that the other person can sit there. Why on earth cannot they just sit one more booth over instead of sitting right on top of us?
          I can so relate to that.

          There are actually people that can't come up with something to say to each other, so they cuddle up with other people, trying to pick something up from your conversation, so they can talk about that... One time I was talking with a friend of mine and while he was away to the men's room I found out that the couple sitting near us were talking about the same subject, and it wasn't a subject that one gets to for leisure or pleasure for that matter: they HAD to have heard it from us. We were talking about dental extraction you see.

          On the other hand some people talk in plain public about the most personal affairs to be heard by everyone while sitting on the train or something public like that. I feel very awkward when I stumble into that kind of company voluntarily!

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            #6
            It's what we in the RVing (Recreational Vehicle) community call the herding instinct.

            While travelling across country in our motor home, at the end of the day we often pull into a shopping centre and park there for the night. I've experienced occasions, where after dark, as the mall parking lot empties there might be another RV or two spending the night there as well. In one instance, we had the entire 5 acre parking lot all to ourselves, except for a motor home waaay over on the other side of the lot. Well, after the lot emptied, they started their rig; and with an entire 5 acres to choose from, they came over and parked 5 feet away from us in the very next parking space!! That just happened to be the generator-side of our motor home, so we started up the noisy (very) generator, and let it belch exhaust smoke at them until they when somewhere else. It only took 15 minutes for them to get the hint and move elsewhere. Still . . . even then, they only moved 50' away!

            We've had this happen a number of times. One time we had the entirely of an Autumn, Lake Superior Provincial Park all to ourselves. Late in the day a motor home pulled into the park; and with a mile of beautiful waterfront campsites to choose from, they chose the campsite right beside ours!! This is a pretty common, annoying malady.
            2008: Phoenix III/44

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              #7
              Originally posted by Menschenstimme View Post
              I am a former Mensa member, so perhaps I am expecting too much?
              Good Lord. I won't bother to point out any of the things that are wrong with that question, as I imagine you're smart enough to figure them out.

              Comment


                #8
                If you are regulars at the shop, ask them if you can print a tasteful "reserved" sign, and put it on the booth next to you, so long as the place does't have, let's say, more than 6 other stations occupied.

                My problem is more with the hair pulling chill'uns. And the parents that get mad when I ask them to stop, and then ask that I move to another table. And I'm not talking Macs or Chuckees here. Better restaurants.

                Chivalry, common courtesy, and common sense are long dead. You have to look hard for civility nowadays. This is not a kinder gentler time (Jimmy Carter?).

                I guess I am a crabby old snob.
                Larry K
                Princeton, IL

                Hammond BV+DR-20, Mathushek Square piano from 1934
                Retired: Hammond L-102, M-3, S-6, H-112, B-2+21H+PR-40, B-3+21H, Hammond Aurora Custom, Colonnade.

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                  #9
                  Thank you all very much for your interesting responses and suggestions. This is enlightening and thought-provoking. The staff does already know to keep children away from us. To be fair, most of the time, other customers of said coffee shop do indeed have the perception and common sense to leave at least one booth between us and themselves when the restaurant has the surplus space to allow them to do so. My posting was an expression of my frustration when they so obviously do not do so. Regarding the parking lot and campground incidents mentioned: Yes, I have had similar experiences. I once received a tiny chip in a newly-painted car this way. We were literally the only two cars in the lot and I was way off in a corner. It must have been the herding instinct that that prompted the other car to keep me company. I have also had similar experiences attending a liturgy or concert in a mostly-empty church. Just for the record: I certainly give others their space as much as possible. Apparently I am a loner and the herd folks don't realize it. SIGH!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Apparently I am a loner
                    Just the fact that you frequent this forum AND that you have 2 etiquette books was enough to guess that

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by havoc View Post
                      just the fact that you frequent this forum and that you have 2 etiquette books was enough to guess that :d
                      I cannot get the Forum to accept "LOL!" as formatted, so let me just say that I found your response very amusing, Havoc, and cannot disagree with it.
                      Last edited by Menschenstimme; 10-15-2010, 02:49 PM.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Havoc View Post
                        This behaviour changes with lattitude. More south, people cluster together more than up north.
                        Odd, I would have thought that up North, people would cluster together even more for body heat?!!!
                        Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                        • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                        • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
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                          #13
                          Originally posted by Menschenstimme View Post
                          Apparently I am a loner and the herd folks don't realize it. SIGH!
                          Sounds good to me! Guessing that genetically, you are probably more Northern European, than of Latin heritage in the south, is a marker that suggests a propensity of requiring significantly more personal space, with larger boundaries before you consider someone to be "invading your space."

                          Dr. Edward T. Hall did one of the initial studies on space-invasion, (i.e Proxemics) about a half century ago, focused upon the social distance between people and its correlation with physical distance between people. Hall came up with 4 categories:

                          1. Intimate distance for embracing, touching or whispering: 6-18 inches. Far too close for a restaurant co-patron!;

                          2. Personal distance for interactions amongst good friends 1.5-4 feet;

                          3. Social distance for interactions amongst acquaintances: 4-12 ft;

                          4. Public distance amongst strangers: over 12 ft!!! Like . . . right across the room!!

                          Sorry to disappoint you; but you sound boringly normal!! <giggle>

                          Now if restaurants, and the hospitality industry in general would take more notice of these human proclivities, they would make life more pleasant for their patrons, and more $$$ for themselves!!

                          In your restaurant situation, your apathetic hosts failed you big time! Although this would not help in your after-the-fact situation, but when I go to a restaurant, I always walk in with the attitude: I'm the boss! And you are here to serve me! From the outset, when the hostess accompanies us to a specific table, if that's not the best remaining table in the house, I tell her were I wish to be seated. I've never had anyone ever challenge me on that in the past 50 years. </giggle>
                          Last edited by Clarion; 10-15-2010, 03:56 PM.
                          2008: Phoenix III/44

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                            #14
                            Well, it happened again last evening. A pair of older gentlemen who appeared to be two old friends having a reuinon dinner came into our usual haunt. The place was almost empty and there were several empty places between each party. The staff told the two men to sit anywhere. They wandered over in our direction and literally had a debate with each other about where to sit. And yes, you guessed it, they decided to sit right behind us. My brother had to move his jacket which was hanging on the edge of the seat between the two booths. I glared at one of the gentleman and muttered to my brother that the whole place was empty. I hope that the gentleman heard me - he definitely saw my facial expression - but obviously did not care. We all proceeded with our meals, hearing each other's conversations. One would think that they might have appreciated a measure of privacy also. SIGH!

                            Yes, I must alert the staff that when the place is "empty enough" to please leave a space between us and folks coming in after we are seated. DOUBLE SIGH!!

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                              #15
                              Well, you could just move all the chairs away from the table next to you.

                              David

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