Photo: innovatedcaptures (Getty Images), Illustration: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Dear Salty: A real jerk ruined my birthday dinner last week, and now I’m wondering what I could have done to stop it.

Here’s what happened—I was out for dinner with my husband at a nice restaurant, not a bar or anything, and the guy at the next table is just going on and on to his buddy about how hard it is to date women because women are such airheads. Oh, and he’s loud enough that I can hear all of it. He’s talking about how women are only after his money, and how they can’t even make conversation, and how all they do is look at Instagram and watch reality TV, etc. His friend was mostly quiet but seemed to agree in general.

Obviously, this was gross to listen to, but I didn’t know what to do. Our tables were close enough and he was loud enough that I could hear everything, and it distracted me from my nice dinner. I tried shooting him dirty looks but he didn’t notice. Should I have said something to the server? Or to him?

Thanks,
Dealing With An Idiot

Dear Dealing With An Idiot,

My condolences on your less-than-pleasant birthday dinner. These guys sound like bona-fide, grade-A chuckleheads.

Here’s the problem, though, birthday gal: There’s really not a perfect answer to your question. I don’t think you had to suffer in silence, but I can’t promise that any of the following solutions would have completely worked. Here’s what I’d suggest:

First, ask your server or a manager to reseat you. You could try to speak to them on your way to the bathroom so as to be somewhat discreet, but then explain that the table is being loud and their conversation is bothering you. If they can, the staff should do their best to move you to a different table. It’s their job to make everyone comfortable, and while they can’t police the content of another table’s conversation, they can do their best to make sure you’re not bothered by it.

As restaurants seem to squish tables closer and closer together (or is it just my hips getting wider?), this accidental eavesdropping is going to happen more often. Best-case scenario, the staff reseats you, you forget about it, and you enjoy the rest of your birthday dinner in peace.

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If they can’t move you to a new table, you could test your bravery and ask the table to quiet down a bit. This is a riskier move, since the buttwads might give you some attitude back, leading to a potentially awkward tension for the rest of the night. But, at least you’d have the satisfaction of having spoken up.

Ultimately, there’s not a perfect, magic solution to this. Moving tables is the best option, but you can’t fault the restaurant if they’re not able to switch you on a busy weekend night. Life is, unfortunately, all too full of these moments when you have to put up with someone else’s crap. You can either say your piece to the jerk-table and suffer the potential consequences, or try to distract yourself with a glass of champagne.

Take heart in the fact that this isn’t the worst thing that could have happened during your birthday dinner—I could have sang to you table-side.

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Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.