Like Hungry Dogs Staring In The Meat Market Window

We were eating supper with relatives at a mid-range restaurant in Memphis when a solitary man sitting across the aisle from us had a cupcake with a lighted birthday candle delivered to his table. He looked at it for a while, paid his tab, and left. We thought the who thing seemed rather sad and discussed what it might mean. The wait staff passed the table several times, ignoring the cupcake but not the tip.

Finally, the aunt in our family group leaned over, snagged the cupcake, blew out the candle, and polished off the cake. What else could one do? Is there any finishing school etiquette about this?

I tend to notice when nearby restaurant patrons leave with their meals largely untouched. That’s like going into a place like Antoine’s in New Orleans, ordering the best meal on the menu, and then deciding you need to go see a man about a dog–without bothering with a carryout box.

The worst incidence of this happened at a fancy restaurant on I-85 south of the Jefferson exit. Okay, it was at the Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, a nice place that we only went to a couple of times while living in Jefferson since the cost of a meal there was outside our comfort zone.

A nearby table of ten people had a decent meal, then paid their tab and left with about twelve bottles of pricey wine sitting there hardly even touched. Looking at it, we discussed whether we could talk over and take the wine or if a waiter might do it for us. We felt like hungry dogs looking through the window of a butcher shop. We were too stunned to move because there was about $500 worth of wine on the table.

The wait staff didn’t touch it. Seeing it there while we ate just about ruined our meal. It’s been a while since this happened. The fact that I remember it so clearly tells you that it was one of those defining moments in my life–as Dr. Phil might say. I don’t know what it taught me other than don’t gunger after what you can’t have.

–Malcolm