We’ve all been there. You’re enjoying dinner or out grabbing drinks and it happens.  You suddenly find yourself surrounded by bothersome tablemates. By this, I mean rude, noisy, drunk, and distracting.

I’m not sure if I’m becoming old and sensitive, or honestly attempting to relish in a good dining experience but I feel it’s happening more frequently.  From the sniffling sick folks who sit arm-lengths away (who should be at home in bed) to fighting couples (half their meal is a fight and the next half is silence), loud eaters, complainers, and over share-ers. I understand different types of people [and their personalities] need to dine outside of their homes but in the middle of Heritage is not the time or place to unleash your loud gossip, inappropriate sex jokes, or lash out at your server.

Last week while having dinner at a newly opened restaurant it happened … all around me. Maybe it was because I was dining in the heart of Short Pump or the diverse mix of cuckoos that flock to a new restaurant.

My girlfriend and I were seated next to a husband, wife, toddler, and their friend.  To keep it brief and accurate, there was a lot of vocal fry, “and I was like’s”, and Richmond socialite name-dropping.  These were the type of folks who proudly spoke above normal volume levels, wanting nearby diners to listen to their oh-so-fascinating lives.

While the wife was in the ladies room, the husband complained to the wife’s friend about the bar scene in Short Pump, loudly confiding, “There were no hot women” (referring to a lame straight hangout in “Downtown Short Pump”).

Awkward. I’ve got no problem with what you’ve got going on but please don’t make me hear it while at dinner … especially when I’m nearly elbow-to-elbow with you.  During the same dinner, the other folks sitting on the other side treated their server like poo and deconstructed their beautiful burgers by removing the bun to make them low carb.  Is Atkins still a thing you do in public?

Ever find yourself in this tablemate predicament?  Trying these few approaches and maneuvers might help …

1: As soon as you notice your “surroundings” are going to be unpleasant, suddenly act cold and ask your server if you can move to another table with a more comfortable temperature.

2: Engage yourself in a fascinating conversation with your own dining companion(s). Mentally blocking your attention is an instant relief.

3: Get a drink or three. Alcohol soothes even the noisiest table of “ladies who lunch”.

4: Deal with it. Turn lemons into lemonade and embrace the backwoods manners, obnoxious conversation, and hot mess sitting next to you.

Here’s a prime example – while having dinner with my dad in a low-key Church Hill eatery, we sat close to a semi-intoxicated redhead perched at the bar. Her conversation with her friend was loud and intense. Her life story and relationship woes were pouring out of her mouth as she shoveled warm mac-n-cheese in.

Being the slightly annoyed Virgo I am, it was easy for me to become instantly irritated but after some time, we became captivated by her poignant words, phrases, and life philosophies.  So much so that we started keeping a log of the real serious stuff that was practically Pinterest worthy. My favorite quote from her?

 ”It’s impossible to know who you are, unless you know who you were.”

Damn right.

As a child, my hero, Mr. Rodgers softly sang “won’t you be my neighbor?” This was the approach we were all supposed to take, right? Sorry to say, ol’ Rodg…Dinner is a different story for me.


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