People Behaving Badly In Restaurants

I was getting ready to update a blog post that I wrote several years ago titled “Night Life In Dickinson, North Dakota”, where I listed and described the bars and restaurants in Dickinson.  In addition to updating this list, I was going to write a short advisement about people behaving badly in restaurants, in Dickinson.  That updated blog post will not be a good place for me to do a great deal of explaining about people behaving badly in restaurants, so I am going to explain this now, in this blog post.

When I grew up in the 1970s in the United States, there was an upper class, upper middle class, middle class, lower middle class, and lower class in society.  At that time, people in general had the belief and expectation that their children could do better in life than they did, all it took was getting an education, hard work, the right marriage, etcetera.

Women and mothers in particular, believed that their children should aspire to rising to the next higher social class.  Women and mothers believed in instructing their children, and sometimes their husbands, proper behavior, manners, and etiquette so that they would more easily fit into the next higher social class, or at least be respectable and not embarrass themselves.

Other writers have written in the past, that manners are what makes society run smoothly.  Or, that manners are not about snobbery, but about making other people comfortable.  If you look at it this way, which I do, in polite company, you do not do or say anything that would make other people uncomfortable.

Therefore, you wouldn’t ask someone how much money they make, how much money they have, pry into their religious or political beliefs, make controversial religious or political statements which might possibly offend someone, talk about sex, bodily functions, or use foul, crude, vulgar, lewd, or rude language.  Anyone belonging to the middle class, was expected to know this, and follow these rules, when in polite company, such as when mothers, fathers, and children are gathered together.

In order to not just pick on Dickinson, North Dakota, I will give an example of middle class rules of conduct not being followed when I was living in Florida.  My  fourth job out of college working as an engineer, I went to work for a newly formed engineering and construction company in Florida.  The owner of the company came from a very well known family that was successful in both business and politics.

This engineering and construction company took its name from the company owner, who was a registered professional engineer, who graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in mechanical engineering like I did.  The other company partners were registered professional engineers, one of them an electrical engineer, the other had a degree in both civil and mechanical engineering.

The construction manager who got me hired at this company as a superintendent, was a mechanical engineer in his fifties who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, who had spent most of his career in power plant construction, sometimes overseas.  I was happy to be working with so many mechanical engineers, and other engineers who had graduated from the University of Florida.

This company sometimes held a half day, quarterly meeting for the field management personnel at a very nice hotel conference room on Lido Beach, which is on the Gulf of Mexico at Sarasota, Florida.  At this particular meeting, there was the electrical engineering partner, the mechanical engineer construction manager, several superintendents who were engineers, two superintendents who were not engineers, several construction coordinators, two administrative assistant ladies, and one construction foreman who was being considered for superintendent, who was named Chris.

Down the street from the hotel on Lido Beach, was a fairly famous area called St. Armands Circle, which had several fine dining restaurants, and high end boutiques, clothing, jewelry, and specialty stores.  As the half day, quarterly meeting was drawing to a close, one of the construction coordinators was successfully talking the engineering partner into paying for lunch on St. Armands Circle.  One of the administrative assistant ladies, quickly called the best and most famous restaurant on the circle, the Columbia, to make reservations.

To describe what the Columbia restaurant is, there are three of them in Florida, one in Tampa, one in Sarasota, and one in St. Augustine, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

The original Columbia Restaurant, located in the historic Ybor City neighborhood in Tampa, is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Florida, and the oldest Spanish restaurant in the United States, and one of the largest Spanish restaurants in the world with 1,700 seats in 15 dining rooms taking up 52,000 square feet over an entire city block.  Founded in 1905, the landmark is still owned by the Hernandez/Gonzmart family and serves Spanish and Cuban cuisine.

Myself, the construction manager, the other engineers, and one of the non engineer superintendents, were uncomfortable about what was probably going to happen, but we went to the Columbia restaurant with the company field management personnel.  Right away, the construction coordinators, administrative assistant ladies, non engineer superintendents, and the foreman who was up for promotion, all began drinking alcohol, and rather quickly too, because someone else was paying for it.

Mid way through lunch, our group of twelve company personnel, had become way too loud for this fine dining restaurant.  Primarily, the two construction coordinators, the two administrative assistant ladies, one superintendent, and Chris who was up for promotion, had all quickly gotten drunk, were too loud, and were becoming obnoxious.

I was embarrassed, and I knew that our group was getting attention from the other patrons for being too loud and too obnoxious, spoiling other patrons’ quiet conversations, and being completely ignorant and oblivious to the fact that this was one of the oldest and most prestigious restaurants in Florida.

This was foreman Chris’ big chance to make an impression, as the conversation turned to college football, and Chris had just the right thing to say about Florida State University, so he had to be sure to yell it very loudly, several times, “Hey, hey, hey!…Those Semen Holes!  Those Semen Holes!…Wait, those Semen Holes!”

At that moment, several of us got up, and said we have got to go, you take care now, have a nice rest of your day.  I can’t imagine what the other families in the Columbia restaurant at that time did.  I can’t imagine what someone’s wife who was eating at that moment, I can’t imagine what her reaction might have been.

On the following Monday, the restaurant manager or the restaurant owner family, that had operated the restaurant since 1905, telephoned the company owner and complained about his employees’ very rude and inappropriate behavior at the restaurant, which probably caused other patrons to leave.  And the patrons who complained to the restaurant manager at the time, they demanded to know who these rude obnoxious people were, and these angry restaurant patrons called the company owner and complained about his employees’ behavior too.  This was a big embarrassment to the company owner, whose company bore his family name.

Of the possibly 50,000 restaurants in Florida, the three Columbia restaurants in Sarasota, Tampa, and St. Augustine have the oldest and best reputation for fine dining, except for possibly Berns Steakhouse in Tampa, which opened in 1956.  Why the construction coordinator, and the administrative assistant ladies wanted to go to the Columbia restaurant, I don’t know.  Maybe because they had heard about it being famous, maybe because they had heard that the food was good, maybe because this was a chance to eat there and have someone else pay for it.

I couldn’t believe that a normal adult with any common sense, would not realize that this was a time to be on good behavior.  I am writing about this incident to show that some people, for some reason, misbehave when they are at a fine dining restaurant.  Maybe they think that this is a good opportunity to cause annoyance to wealthy people, to disturb them, to irritate them, to show disrespect to them, to ruin their dinner, to cause them to want to leave the restaurant.  Or, it is like trying to force people to have interaction or involvement with you, who do not want anything to do with you, even if that interaction consists of patrons asking you to please stop using profanity, patrons getting into an argument with you, or management asking you to leave.

In Dickinson, North Dakota, I have often seen this happen at ordinary bars and restaurants, but sometimes in a more severe way, where myself or the staff have had to telephone the police. Construction workers, oil field workers, criminals, and drug addicts, enter a bar or restaurant in Dickinson, and begin behaving inappropriately, rude, insulting, obnoxious, offensive, or threatening.  They are angry, upset, alone, depressed, mentally ill, intoxicated, or high, and walking into a bar or restaurant gives them the opportunity to approach people, and force people to either interact with them or leave, even if the interaction that they are forcing leads to arguing, threats, or fighting.

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