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When to Censor Your Dinner Conversation?

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NicoleFriedman Oct 21, 2008 07:55 PM

A few weeks ago I was eating pizza with a good friend and our conversation turned to politics. He was talking about some of the problems facing this country when a man at a nearby table turned to us and said "If you don't like this country, get the "F" out" Then he said it a second time. I was tempted to say something right back but refrained myself because I didn't want to do anything brash.

I do not agree with a lot of my friend's politics, but if anyone has actually been listening to what he was saying, he was not showing any indication of being unpatriotic. Obviously this man had picked up on what he perceived as being negative and that's all he heard.

I do realize that my friend was being a bit loud at the time (forgetting the topic). I actually was about to mention it to him- the man beat me to the punch!

Generally I do not want to disturb people nearby when eating out by talking too loudly or having overtly inappropriate conversations. However, assuming the volume had been at a reasonable level, should we have to censor our political beliefs when dining out? I think it's wrong and obnoxious to try and convert other diners (especially strangers!) to our personal beliefs (political, religious or anything else), but one of my great pleasures is being able to converse freely about politics or anything else over a good meal. Feeling the need to censor myself would kill my enjoyment.

What is your take on this?

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  1. Mawrter RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 21, 2008 08:33 PM

    There is nothing whatsoever improper about having a political conversation over dinner, but in this particular place, it may have been imprudent. Sometimes if we wish to to avoid having our meals unpleasantly or threateningly interrupted, we need to take a look at which way the wind blows, so to speak.

    1. RealMenJulienne RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 21, 2008 08:50 PM

      When to censor your dinner conversation? When it is necessary for the comfort of your guest or dining companion. As for surrounding diners your topic of conversation is none of their damn business. The only acceptable thing for your "neighbor" to have said would be a request for your friend to tone down his volume. What he actually said is unacceptable bordering on infuriating.

      1. JiyoHappy RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 21, 2008 08:56 PM

        I am reminded of something taught by my mom, looonnng time ago

        If you want your discussion to stay between 2 ppl , make sure only 2 ppl can hear it
        If someoe can hear your conversation, he/she is already a part of the conversation , whether you want it or not .

        I do not go out for meals very much , due to my dietery restrictions. But lately with the political climate we are in , I am finding it increasingly difficult to have a quiet meal anywhere. And I always find that the loudest and most obnoxious ppl in any restaurant are the ones in whose opinion Americans are racists and bigots , and should learn how to live / eat /dress /talk from europeans .
        Followed by ppl who think their kids have a right to ruin other ppl's meals

        Anyway , the person who gave his opinion to you and your friend was not censoring anyone, he was just joining the conversation !

        1 Reply
        1. re: JiyoHappy
          meatn3 RE: JiyoHappy Oct 25, 2008 12:51 PM

          Your mother gave very good advice!

        2. g
          givemecarbs RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 21, 2008 09:43 PM

          Wow I was starting to feel bummed about the cold weather here in Penna but not anymore! Chowhound is alive with such interesting new topics to read and comment on! Another great topic, thanks for posting it! When I read the title my thoughts went on a tangent as I thought oh yes, with my friends I do this all the time. I was thinking along the lines of nipping disgusting or really upsetting lines of talk while eating anywhere, even in the privacy of my own home. I will ask my dining companions to change the subject if it is offending others or myself. I like tasting my food. But on the other hand part of going out to a public place is people watching and eavesdropping. Mostly people listen in on my friends and I. I did feel a bit sorry for an older married couple sitting at the next table who seemed to have absolutely nothing to say to each other their entire meal. As I remember my friend and I were talking about the nature of existence and all kinds of stuff and at least we kept them entertained. To answer your question, Nicole, I agree that volume is key. People get carried away with passion and don't realize they have to turn it down a notch. I've had to be reminded. Did anything else happen? Did you keep on talking? My friend John and I went to a thai restaurant recently and although the place was not crowded, the host tried to seat us right next to an older couple who were having a lively happy conversation. I was impressed with John, he just pointed to another table and asked for that seat instead without missing a beat. That way they could talk and so could we. John made it look so easy, but being that assertive comes hard to some of us. Like me. As other posters have stated, the location is key. John and I went to a biker bar out in the sticks for some beer and hot wings and we did not continue discussing his activites with his gay-straight alliance group at his college once we entered the bar. Even John has some common sense. :)

          8 Replies
          1. re: givemecarbs
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            akq RE: givemecarbs Oct 22, 2008 11:59 AM

            Agreed - I'd censor disgusting or really upsetting conversation in public, especially close quarters like a restaurant. The idea that the people around you can't hear you is just a fiction - people are usually polite enough to pretend that they can't hear you, but it's just pretending. IMO, no one should upset the diners around them with conversations about nasty medical procedures/symptoms, death, etc. There's nothing worse than a table next to you of diners who have finished eating so they feel okay talking about some nasty puss filled sore or gross medical procedure when you are trying to eat and enjoy yourself (it's happened to me and really took away my appetite).

            1. re: akq
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              mpjmph RE: akq Oct 22, 2008 12:27 PM

              What happens in my circle of friends is that we often don't realize that our topic of conversation is disgusting or upsetting to others. Most of us are in public health or medicine, we've all been trained to talk about all kids of icky topics openly and without pause - we basically have no social filters anymore. A lot of times we'll get on a topic while dining out, like a new medical treatment or infectious disease trend, and completely forget that others around us may not be so open in discussing such topics. Eventually someone will mention the social filter, and we'll move on to more appropriate dinner conversation. For the record, I have never had anyone ask/tell us to stop talking about a specific topic, but I have seen some strange looks.

              I have to agree with RealMenJulienne. Your dinner neighbor could have asked your friend to lower his voice, that would have been perfectly acceptable.

              1. re: mpjmph
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                akq RE: mpjmph Oct 22, 2008 05:16 PM

                I don't like confrontation much, and especially not with some random person (or worse, a random group of people) in a restaurant, so I would have a very hard time asking someone to change the topic of their conversation. I've just seen people get psycho and agreesive too many times. I'd probably just deal with it, ask to me moved to a different table or leave, which is too bad. Perhaps I'd mention it to the server and ask that she/he tell the table that other diners have complained and could you please lower your voice/change the topic, etc. That's kind of putting him/her on the spot, but usually people are less aggressive when the "authority" asks them to change than when they are asked by a fellow patron, in my experience.

            2. re: givemecarbs
              orangecat RE: givemecarbs Oct 22, 2008 01:04 PM

              Quote from givemecarbs:

              "Mostly people listen in on my friends and I. I did feel a bit sorry for an older married couple sitting at the next table who seemed to have absolutely nothing to say to each other their entire meal. As I remember my friend and I were talking about the nature of existence and all kinds of stuff and at least we kept them entertained."

              Don't be so certain that they were entertained. Often, people clam up when others around them are too vocal or overbearing. If everyone always listens in on your conversations, I suggest you pipe down. They may not find you as interesting as you think they do. Just a thought.

              1. re: orangecat
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                givemecarbs RE: orangecat Oct 23, 2008 02:32 AM

                Thank you for your comments orangecat. I think you read a lot into my post but I must say no one in real life has ever called me too vocal or overbearing. The event I described took place about fifteen years ago and I remember it so vividly because it was one of the best conversations of my life. I was talking rather softly because I was in awe of the words coming out of my friends mouth. Such amazing ideas that I am getting chills down my spine just recalling now as I type this. I am fortunate enough to dine often with this friend and I have to admit that once or twice I have censored the conversation with him while we are eating because I have realized that I am not tasting my food and being swept away by his words. Thinking back now I regret having done this because a person gets to eat three times a day or more but such conversations are like a precious gift. I have written about this friend before. I was saying in that post that some wine lovers don't offer a toast with an exceptional wine because the emotion of the toast might interfere with the experience of tasting the wine. On the times where I have stopped him I have just said, this is so awesome but can we continue this when we are done eating? I hated doing it but it is hard to swallow when your breath is being taken away. I have witnessed other such conversations at a diner I love to go to. The diner caters to senior citizens and they can sometimes talk about really depressing things that I try not to listen to. But once I saw an old man holding an old woman's hand. They were sitting at a small booth and the man had come over to speak to her as she picked at her breakfast. The feelings were so intense that I couldn't block them out as he held her hand and talked to her about how hard it was to lose her husband the other night and how tired she must be. Then he just held her hand hard and listened to her. It was so hard not to cry but I knew I was witnessing something incredible as he talked to her quietly about her loss. I had my sunglasses on and the friend I was with had no idea what was going on and I did't say anything either. They were very quiet and low key but it was a powerful moment I was proud to bear witness to without letting on. My breakfast got cold. Sometimes for me conversations come even before food.

              2. re: givemecarbs
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                NicoleFriedman RE: givemecarbs Oct 22, 2008 02:28 PM

                Usually I'll keep the conversation going, and in this case I feel that the "neighbor" way overstepped his boundary. (I cut the conversation short for other reasons dealing with my friend) I actually wish more people would be gutsy enough to ask (NICELY PEOPLE!:} ) someone disturbing their dinner due to volume to tone it down. But while I did post the original question, I generally feel the topic (unless if its pornographic and there's kids around) is noone else's business, as long as the volume of the conversation is at a reasonable level. I do find that people, when bored with their own meals have a tendancy to "listen in" to what other diners say....I've done it myself! :} But if I'm doing that, I cannot fathom being offended by the content of the conversation as I am deliberately listening. On another note, I think that a healthy society is one that is not afraid to speak its mind. Again, as long as no one is going from table to table in a restaurant trying to "convert you" or talking inappropriately loud to force you into the conversation, I do not see how anyone should be offended. (But then again I'm from New York and I'm used to a lot of heated dinner discussions!)

                1. re: NicoleFriedman
                  Miss Needle RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 04:25 PM

                  I agree with what you're saying. The guy should have just told him to lower your friend's volume. In the case of your situation, it definitely sounds like your friend was a bit too loud, which is irritating in its own right, whether it's pornographic or political or whatever. I've definitely witnessed this at a lot of restaurants. Some people are just loud talkers. Some people tend to get carried away by certain topics (which I admit that I have a tendency to do at times -- DH tries to calm me down). Some people talk loudly on purpose to show off how "important" they are. Some people are just totally oblivious. I do think it's appropriate to keep dinner conversation at "appropriate" levels, whether it's a loud or quiet restaurant and irrespective of the topic of conversation.

                  I was once eating at a place a few months ago when a pescatarian friend started loudly talking about how killing animals for fur is wrong, etc. This was at a place where I'm sure quite a few people there would have owned fur coats. She's just a very loud and vocal person in general. A few of us just looked at each other, and we were all thinking the same thing. I was just praying nobody would come up to us and start something like what happened to your friend. Luckily, nobody did.

                2. re: givemecarbs
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                  NicoleFriedman RE: givemecarbs Oct 24, 2008 07:08 PM

                  Sorry as I had replied but my post has mysteriously vanished. In the past I would have avoided confrontation but as long as the person seems they can be reasonable, I will definitely say something. This person did not look "reasonable" at all so I did not bother. I didn't want to ruin my evening over this!

                3. iluvtennis RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 12:24 PM

                  I think that there are topics that are certainly inappropriate to discuss over dinner, but i don't think politics is one of them. But i do think that no matter what you are discussing, it should be done in a tone that doesn't disturb other diners. I'm not sure how loudly your friend was talking, but it appears to me that the one person who was without a doubt rude was the guy who felt the need to butt in on your conversation.

                  1. cayjohan RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 01:26 PM

                    1. Volume, volume, volume. Indoor voices, people, please. NB: this also goes for the roars that go up while a game is on on one of the ubiquitous TVs existing in *nice* restaurants.

                    2. Eavesdroppers and voyeurs get what they get if the volume rule is observed by those eavesdropped upon. Short of the Cone of Silence, that's life in a public venue. Let's all mind our own in such situations. (See volume rule, again)

                    3. The gentleman who took issue with the conversation in the OP's dinner should have requested that restaurant staff deliver a message to the offending table in the case that it was indeed the volume rule being violated. Civilized.

                    Cay

                    1. Sam Fujisaka RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 01:40 PM

                      When in public in Thailand, don't badmouth the king and royal family: if overheard you can be arrested.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        cayjohan RE: Sam Fujisaka Oct 22, 2008 02:11 PM

                        Yeah, Sam - I think there's a subtext to the OP's post that parallels your statement. Although arrests aren't a reality in the hypercharged political climate we (The OP and I) live in, social censure (warranted or not) certainly is. I would hope that dinner conversation, at a proper level, should never be cause for more than, say, complaining about volume. After all, the table is where we work out a lot of disagreements and plans for improvement. Breaking bread together is a good thing.

                        Cay

                        1. re: cayjohan
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                          NicoleFriedman RE: cayjohan Oct 24, 2008 07:14 PM

                          Absolutely! I fear the day when we feel the need to censor ourselves, especially when it comes to politics. That's what makes our country so great! Obviously in a restaurant be respectful, keep the volume reasonable- but we should not fear having real discussions. Actually, I do like to think that if more people discussed problems over "breaking bread", solutions may just come a bit easier:}

                          1. re: NicoleFriedman
                            cayjohan RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 24, 2008 07:20 PM

                            Preacher to my choir, Nicole! The *table* can solve a lot of problems.

                            Best,
                            Cay

                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                          Scargod RE: Sam Fujisaka Oct 22, 2008 02:58 PM

                          Anywhere, you might have people waiting for you outside if you are loud, irreverent , unsavvy, drunk and mouthing off, or rude in public. Perhaps this person was lucky to just be spoken to.

                          I have one friend, in particular, who is just too loud in public. He is not sensitive enough and thinks he is the only one in the room.... If you argue with him, he just raises the decibel level.

                        3. b
                          bibi rose RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 02:19 PM

                          I don't think it's improper to discuss politics where other people can hear you. However right now, in the US, there are a lot of people who are very stressed out over politics and their nerves are very frayed. They may respond out of proportion-- or to things they only imagine you said. You said you were eating pizza and I would not be awfully surprised to hear political conversation in a pizza parlor, coffee shop or similar Same goes in my home, although I would be pretty uncomfortable if people got into a really acrimonious argument. Fine dining restaurant? Right now if I go out for a nice meal I'm probably trying to get away from that for a little bit.

                          1. d
                            Dan G RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 02:43 PM

                            I would have just continued my conversation and ignored the person at the next table (my wife, however, would probably have intentionally moved the conversation into areas that really angered him, or more likely tried to engage him in a discussion on her right to express her views).

                            If he were to butt in again, I would have asked the restaurant manager to move that person to another table or, even better, out of the restaurant. Their behaviour was extremely rude and you shouldn't have to put up with it.

                            1. k
                              Kathleen M RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 03:44 PM

                              hee hee, recently my husband and I were eating in a casual place, and the woman at the table next to us got a dirty plate under her teacup. She raised a stink with not one but two of the servers. When our server returned with an entirely new tea service, the woman went on and on about how horrible the former plate looked, with the server politely and profusely apologizing. Then the woman went on to report on several studies she had recently read about which foods were likely to give one food poisoning (lemon wedges, snacks at bars) while the server repeatedly assured her that the lemon wedge in question had just been cut. The woman then said "I can tell you about other studies..." and the server quickly said "That's ok!". The woman began to talk again, and my husband, usually the mildest of people, got up, put his hand on the server's shoulder, and said, quietly, to the woman "She said that's enough. We too have heard enough. We're eating here." The woman then got up and VERY loudly announced that she and her husband would "just move - we're making SOME people uncomfortable" and then on her way past my husband, who had returned to our table, said to him "I got a dirty plate, MISTER!" The server came back to our table a few minutes later to apologize for any discomfort we might have felt. We tipped that server very generously when we left, and she came back to the table to make sure that we hadn't made a mistake. We told her we felt she deserved something extra for how well she handled the incident. We were laughing about the incident for days. Yea, there are some situations in which diners should probably censor their conversation.

                              1. Sam Fujisaka RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 04:02 PM

                                One time in the 70s I was sitting in a purely working class tavern with a good buddy having a few beers. Guy with sideburns and ducktail walked in and I said, "Hey, that guy looks just like Elvis". Guy somehow overheard (can't imagine how, maybe said it too loud?) and came over. He looked less like Elvis and was a lot bigger as he came up and asked, "You talkin' bout ME!??". Quick thinker me says, "Yeah, you look just like E'vis. You one of them Vegas E'vis impersonaters? Ahm a big fan.... yakityyakity ... siddown an have a beer! ..." My friends recall and recount these types of episodes. I'd forgotten this one until reminded a couple of years ago.

                                1. g
                                  gloriousfood RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 22, 2008 04:34 PM

                                  Well, I would refrain from discussing politics these days simply because no one seems to accept dissent anymore--dissent from their own opinions. This presidential election in particular has brought out extremely strong feelings for many, and on both sides, and I know I try to avoid the topic as much as possible and steer away from it unless people are able to accept that others might not agree with what they say--and don't take it as such a personal insult.

                                  Somewhat related, this weekend a couple of friends and I were over at a friend's for a get-together when all of the sudden the hostess's friend started bad mouthing where we work (the hostess--our friend--left under unpleasant circumstances). It was just awkward as hell. We said things like "Can we talk about something else?" or "Let's not talk about work," but no, her friend went on and on about how poisonous our workplace was (keep in mind she never worked there). The irony was that she also mentioned more than once how she can "read" people so well, but she obviously couldn't "read" any of our outward discomfort.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gloriousfood
                                    cayjohan RE: gloriousfood Oct 22, 2008 05:23 PM

                                    >>no one seems to accept dissent anymore<<

                                    You make me smile, with a memory. I grew up in northern Minnesota, an area populated by all sorts of very opinionated political sorts (many of whom I'm related to...). The arguments at the table would be many and varied and usually oppositional (who said Scandinavians were subdued?), and touch upon every point on the political spectrum, but at the end of it all, the dissent was tolerated and welcomed, as it was as much a part of the meal as the rhubarb pie. Hands were clasped, hugs exchanged, and Tupperware returned. Despite real ideological divides (and I'm talking Communisitic speeches that I heard as a child, versus extreme rightist views), everyone understood that each deserved their own opinion, just as each deserved that slice of rhubarb pie. It was no less loud (indoor voices? not a chance!), but it was accepting.

                                    Maybe that's what sharing tables can do for us.

                                    Cay

                                  2. jfood RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 23, 2008 04:53 AM

                                    "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it." - paraphrased and attributed to Voltaire.

                                    Many forget these words from a few centuries ago and formed one of the tenets of our government. And yet again we find ourselves in the throes of political campaigns where negativity outpace positives, even in an economy that needs significant change. Here in MSP, someone has decided to spray paint attacks on candidates homes, even citing the Bible to foster personal attacks. Embarassing to all.

                                    But in the context of this thread. In today's world, nerves are frayed, fear of economic survival is pervasive and everyone wants it to end and go back to the normal enjoyments. So discussions in public that might incite this response need some care on location, tone and volume. But one should never have to deal with another table's verbal attacks.

                                    Jfood would have either immediately asked the MD or host to move his table, or leave. In no way would he confront the other table. He is not in a restaurant to change political views of others, possibly get involved in an ugly scene or subject himself or his guests to further assaults.

                                    As he tries to teach the little jfoods. Pick your battles and having an intelligent conversation with an unarmed man is not a road to success.

                                    1. The Chowhound Team RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 23, 2008 05:37 AM

                                      Folks, if you want to discuss whether someone should discuss politics at dinner, that's fine, but discussing actual politics here is definitely off topic.

                                      1. susancinsf RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 23, 2008 08:47 AM

                                        If you were too loud, you should have toned it down. Yes, I agree on inside voices.

                                        However I strongly disagree with those that say that they shouldn't be subjected to certain topics at neighboring tables when they go out to eat (because they want to escape politics or whatever). I am sorry, but it is NONE of their business and they shouldn't be listening! So, assuming your voices aren't booming, you should feel no obligation to change the topic, and if the neighbors are listening and can hear you and become upset, it means the tables are too damn close (a pet peeve of mine) and it is the restaurant's responsibility! It is interesting to me that at least one poster mentioned fine dining places in particular: when I am paying for fine dining these days, I want enough space that the neighbors CANNOT evesdrop when I talk in a normal tone! (I know a number of restaurants in SF where even soft voices can be heard at neighboring tables that are only four or so inches apart. And at some of those, they have tried to seat me next to the one other party in the place. I almost never go more than once to anywhere like that).

                                        A pizza place isn't somewhere I'd necessarily expect to have a quiet conversation. However if it were a nicer place, and I was sure I wasn't speaking too loudly, I'd go to the manager, and say that I need to be moved to a table where I can have a quiet conversation without my neighbor trying to join in. If that means putting me in a four top for two people, or a booth, that is what the restaurant should do.

                                        That said, there was a time years ago when some friends and I were basically kicked out of a restaurant (they never told us to leave, but toook away our wine glasses and refused to bring more; and pointedly brought us the check) after we said some rather controversial things about a national political figure, which apparently upset a neighboring table. However, in retrospect, we probably had had waayyy too much to drink and I am sure we were much louder than we realized. It was that night that I learned the importance of really understanding what is and what isn't an inside voice. I don't regret what was said, but I do regret the obnoxious behavior in how we said it....(and I did learn my lesson: that was the first and only time I've ever been kicked out of a restaurant! )

                                        1. r
                                          Reefmonkey RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 23, 2008 10:01 AM

                                          I think as long as you are talking at a reasonable volume and not being profane, your dinner conversation is no one at another table's business. Sure, every once in a while you might get animated and your voice may raise a little, that happens to everyone.

                                          In the case where the conversation at a table is too loud, someone at a neighboring table may say "excuse me, but could I ask you to please keep it down a little" or if they are using profanity, a stronger tone and a reminder that children/elderly/ladies are present and can hear them (usually better to ask your waiter to do it for you in both cases), but in no case is it appropriate to comment on the content of a conversation you happen to overhear.

                                          Trust me, the man who made the comment was way more in the wrong than your friend. He was the rude one.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Reefmonkey
                                            BobB RE: Reefmonkey Oct 24, 2008 09:08 AM

                                            In general I agree about staying out of other people's conversations - , but there's always an exception. I'm thinking of a little Italian place near us which is always crowded and has tables barely inches apart, but the food is fantastic and reasonably priced - which, of course, is why it's so crowded and why they try to squeeze in as many people as they can. More than once my wife and I have dined there and found ourselves sharing conversation with folks at a neighboring table - usually starting out with a comment like, "Ooh, what's that you ordered?"

                                            1. re: BobB
                                              r
                                              Reefmonkey RE: BobB Oct 27, 2008 12:18 PM

                                              I don't see a problem with that. I've done that too, initiated a conversation starting with asking someone what they ordered because it looked and smelled good and I wanted to order it too. I've also sometimes chimed in agreement with a nearby table when they have complained that our mutual server is slow.

                                              I guess the logical rule that would come from this is it may be okay to initiate a conversation with another table if it is about the current experience at the restaurant, but one should still use common sense.

                                          2. janetofreno RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 24, 2008 11:30 PM

                                            Its interesting: when I first read your title I thought the talk to be censored was about sex, not politics. And I'm sure that thought was born out of guilt: the other day in a restaurant with a friend I made a joking comment about something to do with sex...causing my dinner companion to laugh but the folks at the table next to us to glare....of course, the fact that we were in Downtown Disney and the folks at the table next to us had two children about ten might have caused the glares.

                                            OTOH, as Susan points out, often times the tables are too close. That was certainly the case at this place. Nonetheless, in a family place like that one probably should be more discrete....

                                            1. The Ranger RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 25, 2008 07:38 AM

                                              There are no taboo topics at Clan Ranger's table. We solve the world's problems every night.

                                              In a pizza joint, I'd expect voices to be raised due to the level of "white" noise (music, clattering dishes, fans, etc.) being thrown about the place. What would annoy me enough to engage the table beside your friend is the way the topic was addressed. I'm not prudish (even slightly) but there are times when you just don't use certain expletives; in public is one of them. The first f-bomb I'd've let go. The second one would have found me pulling a seat next to him, hoping for a third...

                                              As far as your friend, he needs to learn the difference between expressing himself clearly and expressing himself loudly. There are major differences. Hopefully this life lesson hammered that home for him so he does require another (future) chapter. :)

                                              1. Boccone Dolce RE: NicoleFriedman Oct 25, 2008 07:47 AM

                                                If we are eating and someone is repeating obscenities, my husband will slowly begin to boil until he can no longer stand it and typically go over and ask them if they would please watch the foul language as there are women, children and educated people present. He is typically applauded by others but that isn't why he does it.
                                                Otherwise if someone is listening in to our table and takes offense or feels strongly enough to comment, it's obvious we are being loud and/or obnoxious and we stifle it or change the subject.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Boccone Dolce
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                                                  bibi rose RE: Boccone Dolce Oct 25, 2008 10:08 AM

                                                  The word "censorship" has been bothering me here. It's not censoring yourself to modulate your voice and refrain from blowing off at length about inflamatory topics while nearby strangers are eating.

                                                  Most of the time when I've been annoyed by other people's conversations, it was because they were airing personal problems and it was TMI. The guy who brings his girlfriend to a nice restaurant to break up with her. Worst of all, the family who brought their elderly father to our neighborhood bistro to beark the news that they were putting him in a nursing hime. That display made me sick to watch and listen to. Take care of that stuff at home, people.

                                                  But I have been bothered by conversations that were more or less political in nature. Two guys in a coffee shop recently were going on about immigrants to the US, legal or otherwise, and all the problems they supposedly cause. They were being loud enough that I couldn't help feeling anyone who didn't say anything was in effect tacitly agreeing with them.Had I been in the midst of a full meal, I would have asked them to shut up. I settled for fnishing my coffee, walking out past their table and glaring at them. I think topics like this should be avoided in a restaurant. Abortion? Soldiers being killed in Iraq? If you've got to discuss those things in a restaurant, please keep your voice down. You've got a captive audience who can't walk away without interrupting their meal. It's not just that people may disagree with you; you could really be upsetting someone.

                                                  1. re: bibi rose
                                                    cayjohan RE: bibi rose Oct 26, 2008 05:29 PM

                                                    bibi, I agree with some of what you say...but to a point. I said upthread that those who listen in to others' conversations when volume levels are being observed, really do get what they get for their voyeuristic efforts. They should not be offended if they indeed were playing eavesdropper, despite contentious topics that people indeed discuss in public.

                                                    If the volume is the problem, each diner has the right to ask management to deal with it. If content (NOT volume) is the problem, we really have to be happy we can have so many quiet opinions as well as good food to wash them down.

                                                    Cay

                                                    1. re: cayjohan
                                                      b
                                                      bibi rose RE: cayjohan Oct 27, 2008 01:05 PM

                                                      Sure, if volume is not a problem, then the content should be able to sort itself out. When both content and volume are problematic, it's more than a double whammy. Some people have a tendency to, how to put it, orate in any setting. You know, the ones who lean back from the table and aim their voices above their companions' heads. The guy I described in an earlier post who was complaining about immigrants was doing that. As was the guy breaking the news to his father that he was having to go into a nursing home. I'm sure those people talk like that in meetings at work. It's like a power trip or something. In a restaurant, it's just weird.

                                                    2. re: bibi rose
                                                      j
                                                      jlawrence01 RE: bibi rose Oct 27, 2008 10:10 PM

                                                      Part of the problem us the proximity of tables. Last week, we entered a small Chinatown restaurant in Philadelphia where we were the only diners. Within 20 minutes a couple was seated in a table that was about eight inches from ours and the discussion was political with the volume being loud enough that we could no longer have our quiet discussion. Pretty much ruined what could have been an enjoyable dinner.

                                                      I believe that some people need to have some sensibilities and not project their voices as if they are in a lecture hall. I mean, my wife and I could have started discussing some of our favorite and graphic workers comp cases over dinner but there is a time and place for all of that.

                                                  2. g
                                                    gjbarbara RE: NicoleFriedman Nov 4, 2008 09:42 AM

                                                    I think your friend was in the wrong. He should not voice his believe in a public place. Or at least he should speak softly so that noone else would hear him!

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: brandywiner
                                                      BobB RE: brandywiner Nov 6, 2008 07:10 AM

                                                      On the other hand, you might look at this as the aural equivalent of the old saw, "Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose."

                                                      1. re: BobB
                                                        Mawrter RE: BobB Nov 6, 2008 01:48 PM

                                                        Not just an old saw - that quote is attributed to one VERY opinionated, eating- drinking-and-merry-making Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. An especially brilliant person to quote in this thread, BobB, as Franklin spent many happy evenings hanging with his posse and arguing politics, philosophy and life over brews in several Philadelphia taverns that are in existence to this day.

                                                        1. re: BobB
                                                          brandywiner RE: BobB Nov 7, 2008 11:56 AM

                                                          So, expressing one's opinion is equivalent to assault and battery?

                                                          1. re: brandywiner
                                                            BobB RE: brandywiner Nov 7, 2008 12:43 PM

                                                            In some cases, and to some people, and especially if the volume is suficiently loud, apparently so. See Deenso's post below. Not in the literal sense, of course, you can't (and shouldn't) be arrested for it. But there are situations where imposing your opinions (or unpleasant topics of conversation, or even just noisy bluster) on innocent bystanders is just rude and insensitive, especially where people are trying to relax and enjoy a meal.

                                                      2. JamieK RE: NicoleFriedman Nov 6, 2008 04:51 PM

                                                        One should never be loud in a restaurant. That's rude.

                                                        There's nothing wrong with expressing or talking about your political beliefs. That's democracy.

                                                        1. Deenso RE: NicoleFriedman Nov 7, 2008 12:33 PM

                                                          Perhaps I have a bit of a weak stomach. I just don't want to hear - or be forced to overhear - about anyone's medical history while I'm trying to eat. I can't stand it when a bunch of old people sit at a nearby table and discuss their latest ailments. I realize that their diverticulitis, prostate problems, gallstones, latest removal of lesions or whatever may be ALL they've go to talk about, but please! I'd rather hear political arguments.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Deenso
                                                            Steve Green RE: Deenso Nov 11, 2008 08:58 PM

                                                            Yeah, medical discussions are the worst. We were at our favorite Chinese place here in Vegas for a late lunch (the place is now gone, ‘snif) and the only other customers, several tables away, were two middle-aged women with their mom. We could hear the whole conversation quite clearly, and it took a turn towards Mom's ailments. Now, GF and I have a running joke that conversations with old folks tend to go downhill when ailments start getting mentioned. It was pretty easy to see where this chat was going, and at one particular point, I whispered to my GF "OK, here it comes…". Right on cue, Mom practically shouted "I HAD DIARRHEA FOR DAYS!". We were laughing for about five minutes straight.

                                                          2. thew RE: NicoleFriedman Nov 8, 2008 11:53 AM

                                                            never.

                                                            as long as someone is not being overly loud, they can discuss whatever they want. I seriously do not care what the person at the next table's opinion of what i'm saying is.

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