Dining Etiquette during a Chicken Incident
I was asked to lunch by an older ex-coworker. When we got to the restaurant, she recommended I order the chicken, the restaurant’s signature dish. (A quarter chicken served with a small salad.) when the waiter came to take our orders, I got the chicken and she ordered a side of French fries only. Strange.
But then when our food came, she began heaping portions of my side salad onto her plate, along with a few French fries. Confused, I feebly offered half of my chicken, which she accepted! I ended up with less than half of the lunch I ordered, and she — who had ordered a side dish — got a sizable chunk of my lunch! What should I have done? And do you have any explanations for this bizarre dining etiquette?
LG: This woman sounds like the cuckoo bird of lunching. Or an extremely deluded (and hangry) dieter. Possibly both.
What should you have done? Frankly, I’m not sure what you could’ve done differently. Allowing her to mooch while being privately confused and latterly appalled seems right. Because it’s one thing to steal bites of someone’s tasty-looking dish (though with a work acquaintance, that could still be questionable dining etiquette) and another to lay your personal lunch order in their nest. And then eat it. I’ve taken this metaphor to an unfortunate place, but I think you know what I mean.
But perhaps she thought she had been clear about sharing the meal? It could just be a case of starvation by miscommunication.
SB: That episode of Friends comes to mind when Joey’s date try’s to steal a fry…. For next time, follow the sage wisdom of Joey. The message is simple: “(Insert your name) doesn’t share food!” At least not with co-workers and never without prior permission.
For now, a second lunch is in order. My diagnosis is that it’s a case of the hangry dieter — therefore, if you hadn’t gone along, this could have ended badly.
MM: Your colleague reminds me of a particular friend who always came empty handed to BYOB parties because she “didn’t feel like drinking” — but promptly changed her mind when the party began.
Of course, it’s much easier to be forgiving with alcohol in your system. The only thing you could have done is end that disappointing meal with your chosen spirit. (Assuming, of course, that your lunch companion was a teetotaler.) And if you ever intend to meet this person again, make sure it’s a buffet.
SH: Wow! This is odd on so many levels. And I agree, there isn’t much you could have done differently, especially if your former colleague was paying the bill.
She either wanted to keep the bill down or assumed you eat like a bird and so she could swoop down on your food. (Were you ever on a diet before her?) Kudos to you for not losing it on a rumbling stomach. Hope you treated yourself to a dessert on your way back!
KB: I’m with SB on this one — this was clearly a weak-willed dieter with a narcissistic streak. She not only didn’t gauge her own hunger properly, she had no problem completely ignoring yours. I also agree there’s not much more you could have done (except make sure she got stuck with the bill, just to make yourself feel better for the sandwich you obviously had to then go buy immediately after your “lunch” date).
But next time you have lunch with her, or someone else with the same proclivity for under-ordering, I have an idea: Comment on the paltry food order in the moment. “Oh, really? A side order of lettuce is enough lunch for you? Wow, I could never subsist on just that for lunch! I need a full portion of chicken to feel satisfied with my lunch!” It would be hard for even a hangry narcissist to eat your food after that.
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