Over the weekend, I dined at Rural Society, an Argentinian steakhouse in downtown D.C. It was quite good (I recommend the ribeye ("bife de chorizo") and the mushrooms ("setas")) if you're in the mood for a slightly pricey celebratory dinner.
I come here not to sing the praises of Rural Society (though they were many) but, rather, to denounce my fellow patrons. Because you people are the worst.*
So I'm sitting there, and four people, two couples, are seated at a booth located at my 11 o'clock. They're a bit boisterous, but hey, it's Saturday night in The Capitol! Live it up! It's not until the waiter comes back for a second time that I realize something is amiss.
"I want the tasting menu," says one of the lady guests; the waiter regrets to inform that the whole table must partake (so as not to mess up the kitchen). The waiter departs for a moment while the couples decide what they want to do; springing to her defense, the gallant gentlemen assure that they are more than happy to also partake of the tasting menu. The waiter returns and takes their order, telling them (as my waiter had told my wife and I) that if you see something you like on the menu, just let him know and he'll see if the chefs can work it in.
"I'm a vegetarian," she says, and you can see the waiter (at the Argentinian steakhouse) stiffen a bit. "So if you could make all the dishes fish or vegetables, that'd be wonderful." Confused—punch drunk, almost, at the audacity of the thing—the waiter stumbles away to consult with the chef. He comes back moments later with a compromise: They'll allow her to skip the chef's tasting menu if everyone else still wants to partake. It doesn't make any economic sense, you see, for her to do it this way. She'd be better off just ordering veggies individually.
Miffed, she dismisses the waiter again. How dare they make the vegetarian feel unwelcome at the "contemporary Argentine steakhouse"! "I just wish the chef would do his job!" is the last thing I hear the outraged woman say. Here's an artistic representation of what happened to me when she screeched that:
Just to be clear, what has happened in the previous scene is that a vegetarian has asked for exceedingly special treatment in a steakhouse and then gotten upset when she was (quite kindly, to my mind) informed by the wait staff that the table would be wasting its money by doing what she wanted to do. And she is angry about this. Angry because she has been made to feel different. Angry because her feelings were not taken into account. How dare this restaurant not treat her just like everyone else! If she wants to waste her money—if she wants to inconvenience everyone else at the table with her awful dietary restrictions—well, who is the restaurant to judge?
Vegetarians in restaurants are one step below bicyclists in the street in their disregard for others. But both are pretty solid representatives of our narcissistic age.
*Note: This story involves the tiniest bit of eavesdropping on my part. Which is bad, I grant. But, in my defense, it was eavesdropping of nothing personal and only made possible by the boorishly loud utterances by the table to be discussed. So I forgive myself.