To that long list polite society says you can’t pick—like your nose, in-laws or neighbors—add the sickly, sticky stranger dining at the table next to you.
Three couples of old friends were celebrating a wife’s birthday one Saturday night at one of those hyperpopular, first-come-first-seated restaurants where photographic evidence of your presence will either attest to how stupid you are for waiting that long or how hip you are to mingle with the night owls.
It should have been a great night. The evening was unseasonably warm despite being early March. The food was great and the server was at the top of her game, personable and knowledgeable without being overbearing. There were even a few boldface names dining a few tables away.
And then, after they bussed the appetizers, a biohazard took the seat at the table next to me.
He’s red-eyed, hacking, sneezing, coughing, wheezing and hissing, and when he blows his nose, it’s reminiscent of that trombone sound stampeding elephants made when Tarzan needed their help in rescuing Jane from a poacher’s camp.
When he clears his throat, it sounds like miniature circular saw blades ripping apart the transmission of a Mack truck gearing down to stop.
There’s a weird, steamy aura around his head, and I’m thinking this dude is an escaped guinea pig from some secret government bio-weapons research facility who forgot to grab the antidote.
Worried that Typhoid Tommy should be at the hospital under treatment by doctors wearing Hazmat suits, I sneak off to the server station and ask our waitress if she should say something to him.
“Like what?” she asks.
“Well, what about, ‘Mister, don’t you think you’d be more comfortable dying at home? The customers are worried that you’re infected with Ebola or the hantavirus.’” She cracks up and says, “That’s funny.”
“Do you see me laughing?” I snort. Several minutes later though, she approaches him and inquires about his health.
Minutes after that she tells me that the dude told her, “I picked up a little bug the other night.” But because he wanted to eat here so badly and waited so long, it was worth risking his health and the public’s for the selfish bastard to achieve his goal. Since he is not being disruptive, the manager believes he has no right to ask him to leave.
So now it has come to this: People are finding the strength to leave their deathbeds just to eat at restaurants with a lot of buzz. That’s a great testament for the operator, but what about the guest?
If Typhoid Tommy were on the payroll, one would hope any conscientious operator, in the interest of food safety and the health of his staff and patrons, would not let him work. Why doesn’t that precaution prevail when it comes to asking the obviously contagious to leave?