Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
I was out to dinner with my boyfriend last night to celebrate some great career related news. We waited 1.5 hours for an outdoor table at our favorite restaurant. Another couple (who I confirmed later were 23 years old) sat down next to us and immediately got in a fight about him wanting to join a country club 15 years from now. She, after their intense 6 month relationship, said that this was outrageous, and that she completely changed her point of view on him. Her reason for hating country clubs was that her dad hated country clubs. This went on. And on. And on. They both listed out every reason why or why not to be in a country club. The whole thing was idiotic. I should note that it was a very intimate setting; I was not trying to overhear them by any means. An hour into the conversation, I asked them half-jokingly if they would like a mediator. They declined, and continued their horrific conversation. I then asked them to kindly hold off their argument until they went home since we were trying to celebrate and they were ruining our evening. They finally stopped. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
What was your career-related news? A promotion to Chief of the Restaurant Police? If you want to have complete dominion over dinner ambiance, eat at home. You can't walk into Per Se and slip the maître d' a Toni Braxton mixtape because you've got a real cool night planned, and you can't demand other customers stop talking because you want to tell an entertaining story to tell about how you fixed a printer on the fritz.
Here is that couple's version of the night:
After waiting 1.5 hours for an outdoor table at our favorite restaurant, we sat down to dinner and struck up a lively debate about the merits of joining a country club. We were surprised to learn we had very different views on country club membership, based on our upbringings. After a while, a woman at the table next to us (who had evidently been eavesdropping on our conversation), leaned over and asked if she could mediate. We declined as politely as we could and continued chatting, now uncomfortably aware that a stranger was listening in. Soon, the woman turned to us again and told us she wanted us to stop talking because our private conversation was "ruining" her meal. She started to tell us how she was there celebrating a job development, and we just let her continue rambling because she was obviously nuts. By this point we'd completely stopped talking because we didn't want to agitate her. We didn't stay for dessert hurried out of there as quickly as possible. Yikes.
It was not your place to ruin your fellow patrons' night by asking them to stop talking. If they were being unbearably loud, you might have asked the Blue Ribbon staff to intervene. If they were having an inane conversation, welcome to Earth where people have inane conversations. They were paying customers, not hired set decorations. Sometimes sound happens.
When the couple did stop talking, how did you like the palpable awkwardness simmering between your two tables? Was it less distracting than a couple kids chitter-chattering about tennis whites?
Of course, even before you told these strangers to stop arguing because their boring drama was not on the menu for your perfect evening, your behavior was, frankly, bizarre. What if they had taken you up on your half-joking offer to intervene? You would have spent the rest of your night mediating a silly argument between two strangers. And what was your mediation going to yield? A more nuanced understanding of country clubs' historical context? Were you just going to declare a winner? "I agree with Kara. No country club for you. Check!"
By the way, all of this ignores the fact that that argument was a gift from heaven sent down to Applebee's solely for your amusement. One of the most delightful parts of eating out is discreetly eavesdropping on other people's fights. An hour long dispute about whether or not a couple should join a country club 15 years from now? THAT SOUNDS HILARIOUS. That couple didn't ruin your night. They made your night. They gave you something to talk about. We're talking about it right now. I'd love to know more.
Speaking of knowing more, I'm very curious about the independent research you conducted in order to "confirm later" that both members of the couple were 23 years old. Did you ask to see their driver's licenses so you could "put a name to rudeness?" Did you place a call to a buddy at the FBI? How high does this thing go?
Next time, let them enjoy their Arby's in peace. Don't ruin your good time by ruining someone else's.
Our next door neighbors are Orthodox Jews and keep kosher. They have a pair of charming Corgis who visit our backyard on occasion. Recently, as often happens, I let one of the dogs into our house to visit and was horrified to see my husband feed it a piece of our Easter ham. He says that the dogs aren't Jewish and so it doesn't matter. He's unwilling to talk to our lovely neighbors however and insists that I not raise the issue with them either. Is that okay?
The best case scenario is that your neighbors wouldn't care. First, chances are they don't spend a lot of time "rapping" about faith with their dogs, and therefore don't consider them Jewish any more than you consider a squirrel outside your window to be Lutheran. Second, if anything, Corgis (short for Welsh Corgis) are going to be Anglican. Third, if the dogs are Jewish, they're still allowed to eat non-kosher foods according to the Torah. ("You must not eat flesh torn by beasts in the field; you shall cast it to the dogs." [Exodus 22:30]) Fourth, if keeping kosher were important to the dogs, they would have politely turned down the ham when it was offered. Fifth, all dogs go to heaven regardless of earthly deeds, so they can eat whatever they want, including you.
The worst case scenario is that your neighbors become hugely upset that your husband fed their Corgis ham. What are they supposed to do with that information if it does bother them? Murder their ruined dogs? Shun your thoughtless husband every time they pass him at the mailbox?
It's really not worth jeopardizing what sounds like a wonderful neighborly relationship over something so small. Who will you call next, on your Crusade for Truth? Your husband's old junior high school? ("He wasn't really sick on January 29, 1987. He went to McDonald's and then to the arcade!")
What you should do is make sure your husband understands it's a bad idea to give treats or scraps of food to someone else's dog without the owner's permission, because it might be harmful to the dog's health. I would much rather someone attempt to convert my dog to Buddhism than sneak him a treat made of rawhide. The former would broaden his horizons; the latter would make him throw up.
At the end of the day (Sabbath), this is one of those selfish confessions that you're telling for your own benefit, rather than that of the person to whom you are confessing.
And no one likes a tattletale (except, evidently, the man who married you).
Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions (max: 200 words) here. Art by Jim Cooke.