A letter to the woman in the restaurant

Dear woman in the restaurant,

We were the people you spent your meal staring at. Or was it glaring? I’m not sure. It was fixed and unwavering which ever it was. And it made the situation so much worse. I’m not going to apologise for LB’s behaviour. He was stressed from the start (getting stuck in the revolving doors on the way in probably didn’t help), but for the most part he managed to keep a lid on it. He muttered to himself a lot, and tensed his body regularly, but only a couple of times did he actually do anything that could have disturbed your meal. Two, possibly three, very brief shout-outs about his fear of Irish lorries being stolen.

As you were staring so hard, you may have noticed that the three of us, Rich, Tom and I, were all working hard to try to keep him calm. There was a lot of talk of the security arrangements at Irish lorry companies and attempts to distract him with a running commentary of the Oxford buses driving past the restaurant. A lot of remedial work, as Erving Goffman, would call it. To be honest, this work was largely try to stop LB experiencing such stress rather than concern about other diners.

I’ve sat in plenty of places and had to listen to other people’s conversations because they talked so loud, I’ve listened to people shouting on mobile phones, sat near parties of people being drunkenly cheerful and excessively noisy. These people don’t get stared at. These behaviours are tolerated.

I’m not sure what you were hoping to achieve with your staring. To let us know some social rules were being broken? To let us know that young people like LB are not welcome in public places? Or to demonstrate that your meal was ruined? The latter would be peculiar. You were sitting far enough away not to look at him, and, as I said, other than the quick shouts, he was pretty quiet.

It was my birthday lunch. I wanted LB to be there (obviously), and don’t think it is (or should be) a big ask for you to just get on with your meal and ignore the odd disruption. Anyway, we got the bill before we’d finished our main course. And left. Staring, or glaring, like that, can sometimes make a difficult situation unmanageable.

Maybe next time, you could just take a few seconds to try to imagine what it must be like to  experience that distress, or have to try to manage it. It ain’t rocket science, it’s that thing known as empathy.



Stan, glaucoma and the car key

Stan became blind in one eye this week. Suddenly. Well pretty much overnight really. Some sort of inherited Jack Russell glaucoma. After a couple of days on emergency drops to try and rescue the damaged eye, but also reduce the pressure in his other eye, I took him back to the eye vet in a nearby town at lunchtime.

We arrived 10 minutes early, so I took him to a nearby park for a walk. He’s obsessive about having sticks thrown for him, so I wandered around a bit, chucking a stick for him.  There was only one other person on the other side of the park. Walking up and down, in a weird way, looking at the ground. Occasionally he or she seemed to be picking something up. They didn’t have a dog or anything, so it was a bit odd. We kept our distance.

Half an hour later, the vet recommended an injection to the back of the eye to deaden it, and Stan was led off, tail wagging, to surgery.

I went out to the car park, without a waggy tail. Only to find out I’d lost the car key.

“Fuckingshittosswank.” It was freezing and I couldn’t work out where it could be. I decided to retrace my steps to the park and started walking along slowly, scanning the grass carefully.

“What do you think she’s doing?” I heard a girl say. I turned round to see a couple with a dog, looking at me as if I was mad.  I started to explain but they walked carefully away from me.

Postscript: I eventually found the car key near the goal post. I shouted to the couple but they pretended they didn’t hear me.

PPS: Rich and LB have gone to collect Stan.

PPS: Stan is home, very cheerful and chirpy 🙂