This Reservation Is For Three Only

by admin on November 1, 2012

My father gave my mother and me an inspired Christmas gift a few years ago: an adorable knitting basket, complete with several yarns, needles, and a scarf pattern, for each of us. Mom knew how to knit, but hadn’t done so in several years, and was delighted to teach me. Knitting has since become a major bonding activity for the two of us, and we love finding new yarn shops and tackling new projects, either together or separately. (Dad has of course benefited from his generosity – his wardrobe has gained several scarves, sweaters, hats and mittens over the years!)

There was a great little yarn shop in the city we used to live in–a very neighborhood-y place in a gorgeous old building, with a big oak table down the center of the shop for people to sit and work. They always had fresh water, tea, and baked goods on hand, and there were various groups that met there regularly, several nights a week. Mom and I were never part of a regular “crowd,” but everyone was friendly and it was a great place to go and seek help on a difficult project, or just have a chat. We went there one summer evening to pick up a few yarns for a blanket my mother was working on, and having paid, sat down at the big table to work. Before long, Mom and I were in conversation with a woman sitting across from me, whom we had never met before. We covered the usual ground–what we were working on, how long we’d lived in the city, what high school I went to, what colleges I was looking at, how Mom felt about her soon-to-be empty nester status, and so on.

The woman was friendly, but way too friendly: upon finding out what my dad did for a living, she mentioned several times that she was looking for a job in that field, and had heard that his company was great to work for, and she was unemployed at the moment and didn’t really have any references or background but knew she’d be great at it, and also did she mention she was looking for a job in that field? Not a crime–you gotta network somehow, I guess–but she certainly went about it tastelessly. This stranger also offered some very decided and unsolicited opinions of a couple of the colleges I mentioned (“Oh, you don’t want to go there, it’s so small! You’d hate a small school. You should look at Big Huge University, it’s so much better.” For the record, the college from which I just graduated houses about 2400 undergrads, and I loved all four years). Eventually, the woman asked us what our plans were for the rest of the evening.

Dad had been out of town on business for several days, so to celebrate his homecoming, Mom had made reservations at a restaurant within walking distance of the yarn shop. The place was a local favorite and really excellent, so reservations were a “must” on most nights as it was always busy. My mom mentioned this, and added how nice it would be for both of us to spend time with my dad, since he’d been gone and we’d missed him.

The stranger exclaimed, “Oh, great! I love that place!”, and looked at us expectantly.

“Oh, yes,” my mother replied, a little confused. “We love it, too.”

“I haven’t been there in awhile,” the woman hinted. “And it’s one of my favorite places.”

“It’s one of our favorites, too.”

“I would love to meet your husband,” the woman went on.

My mother was astonished, but stood her ground. “Well, we’ll have to bring him by [Yarn Store Name] sometime.”

“Oh, but I meant I’d love to meet him tonight. After all, we’ve been having such a nice chat. I’d love to get to know you all better.”

“I don’t think he’ll be stopping here tonight,” my mother answered, feigning obliviousness. “He’ll be going right from the airport to the restaurant. We’re meeting him there.”

“That sounds just great. I love that place. And I’m getting hungry! It must be almost dinner time!”

Mom just “mmm”-ed noncommittally.

“And I really love,” the woman continued, “how flexible they are there, about reservations. If you order a table for three and show up with four, they’re so accommodating! And I’d just love to get to know you all better.” And she continued to smile at us expectantly.

I had been shocked into silence up until this point, and also I was a clueless little teenager who had no idea how to deal with utter rudeness, but I jumped in here. “I’m so looking forward to spending some time with my dad,” I gushed. “I’ve really missed him. He’s been traveling a lot lately, and it’ll be awesome to hang out with him and my mom. We haven’t done anything together, just the three of us, in so long!”

A little blatant, maybe, but so were the stranger’s attempts to cadge an invite to our private family dinner.

“Well, that will be nice,” the woman answered, smiling at me. “And I’d really love to meet your dad. So what time is the reservation?”

Notice: she referred to it as “the reservation,” not “your reservation.” On purpose? Does it mean anything? I’m not sure, but at this point, my mother had had enough.

“Actually, sweet pea,” she said to me, “we should get going. You know I wanted to stop by [Other Store] and [Other Store] before dinner. It was so nice to meet you,” she said to the stranger. “Have a lovely night!”

And we hightailed it out of there. I admit, I glanced over my shoulder as we left the shop to make sure she wasn’t following us. But she was just sitting at the worktable, looking supremely offended. I should mention that this woman had never told us her name, nor asked for our names. That’s not a big deal, when you’re chitchatting with a fellow customer over a bundle of yarn–but at least introduce yourself before barging in on a total stranger’s dinner reservation.

I recognize now that we should have employed the “bean dip” technique–persistently changing the subject–but honestly, I think my mother and I were both a little too flabbergasted to think entirely straight. We went back to the shop a few days later, and another customer who had been sitting at the table that night (and had been equally astonished at the stranger’s audacity) congratulated us on our “near escape.” Fortunately, we never saw the dinner woman again. I can’t help wondering if she expected my parents to pay for her meal, as well as invite her to it. And then she probably expected my dad to offer her a job. 0630-12

I think your mom did a great job of deflecting the unwanted guest!  Hints galore that stranger woman was not wanted.  Love it!   But your Mom was up against a world class moocher con artist, someone who knew how to play the emotional strings to maneuver people into situations that benefited her but certainly puts them in awkward circumstances.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Coralreef November 1, 2012 at 7:34 am

Good thinking on the mother’s part about going to other stores before dinner. Moochers are sometimes described as leeches for a reason, they just don’t give up. You either have to run (figuratively or for real) or give in. In cases like this, running is good.

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Audra November 1, 2012 at 7:51 am

Wow. What nerve.

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PM November 1, 2012 at 8:19 am

People like this bulldoze their way through life because others allow them to. Good for your mom for handling it so adeptly!

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Just Laura November 1, 2012 at 8:22 am

The OP and OP’s mother did a great job.
Also, OP, thanks for writing a coherent submission. It was lengthy but didn’t feel lengthy.

One of my biggest irritations is people who force invitations out of others in a sneaky manner. This is nearly the same as people who say, “Jane, are you having a Halloween party this year?”
“Well, actually yes. We’re having a few friends over.”
“Great, because I was looking for a place to hang out this year!” (Totally happened to me last week.)

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Elizabeth November 1, 2012 at 8:49 am

Well done! It is so hard to handle something like this in the moment, when one is so taken aback and in shock.

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INeedANap November 1, 2012 at 8:51 am

OP, you learned a great lesson in avoidance that day! It amuses me that she looked offended when you left. People like this genuinely don’t think they are being rude, and assume that since they “asked nicely” they are entitled to whatever they asked for. Then, of course, they consider *you* rude for not complying.

I will say that my mother is one of these people and raised me to be an alien from the Planet Boor. It took several incredibly blunt but well-meaning friends to undo years of bad habits and atrocious etiquette. The thing to keep in mind with people like this — and I say it as someone who was on that side — is that they will never concede they are being rude, simply because they don’t know what that really means. The best thing you can do is ignore them and stay out of their clutches as they will not catch subtle hints at all. Good on your momma OP, she did the right thing.

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Shalamar November 1, 2012 at 8:58 am

Wow. That woman was blatant!

That reminds me of when my parents were friends with another couple, Malcolm and June. When June was busy and wouldn’t be around to cook dinner, Malcolm made a habit of arriving without notice at friends’ houses around dinnertime (because heaven forbid that he heat up a can of soup for himself). He did this to us one Sunday around 5:00. My parents were wise to his little scheme and, despite the fact that the roast they were making for dinner was probably getting overdone, were determined to wait him out. So, the next hour went by very uncomfortably, with the smell of roast beef filling the air and Malcolm making comments like “Something sure smells good” and “Boy, I’m getting hungry.” He finally gave up when he realized that a dinner invitation would not be forthcoming, saying grumpily “Guess I’ll be going to Rotten Ronnies (McDonalds) tonight.”

A short time later, he tried the same trick on another friend, who met him at the door and told him point-blank “I’m not letting you in, and you’ve got to stop doing this. It upsets my wife.” That broke him of the habit.

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Shannon November 1, 2012 at 9:05 am

Sometimes people are both socially awkward AND they have an entitled mentality where they believe they should be included in everything.

When those people try to network professionally, it comes across as pushy and rude. I had a colleague who wanted to work in the same field as another colleague’s wife…and called or emailed the wife on a daily basis for two weeks. It was finally firmly explained to her that “networking” is not the same as stalking, her persistence was unwelcome, and that no one is obligated to respond to her entreaties for help finding a job.

I think the OP’s mom did the right thing – she kept her composure, did not bow to pressure, and set a great example for her kid. Brava!

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KMC November 1, 2012 at 9:26 am

Wow. How incredibly awkward and strange.

But I’m highly impressed with OP and her mom and how they handled the situation. What a great example of how to not be a doormat, and do it politely!

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clairedelune November 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

Yes, I agree–no need to “bean dip,” which I doubt would have worked, anyway. You both handled it perfectly.

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La November 1, 2012 at 10:00 am

Creeeeeeeeepy.

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Cherry November 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

The thing that makes the audacity here that much worse is the fact that Minnie the Moocher here then has the nerve to look offended that her plan has failed!

Who on earth thinks that they can invite themselves to someone else’s dinner plans? If she’d been up against my mother, she’d have probably received a rather blunt “You’re joking, right?”

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Ashley November 1, 2012 at 10:20 am

I don’t knit but I like the idea of that store. Seems like a fun way to get to know each other, since you’ve already obviously got some common ground. As for rude woman, I think the “Just the three of us” comment would have shut most people up, but wow, this woman sounded REALLY persistent. Kudos to your mom for getting you up and out of there.

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Kimberly November 1, 2012 at 10:46 am

While I think what your mom did to divert said “new” friend was great, I have to wonder why you shared so much personal information in the first place with a complete stranger?

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LiLi November 1, 2012 at 11:00 am

Yes, because trying to bully your way into a family dinner is CLEARLY the best way to get a job…

Some people…

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nk November 1, 2012 at 11:01 am

If she’s such a leech in all situations, I can see why she hasn’t managed to keep a job.

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Lucky November 1, 2012 at 11:13 am

I’m astonished that the lady didn’t show up at the restaurant and hang around until they got there.

Or maybe she did. Follow up letter, please?

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Psyche November 1, 2012 at 11:25 am

My guess is that this woman comes across as incredibly creepy and people realize it, so they avoid her at all costs. She must be so desperate for friends that she tries to latch onto the first person who is nice to her.

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Kendo_Bunny November 1, 2012 at 11:39 am

“Oh, great! I love that place!” was the last appropriate comment that woman made. There’s nothing wrong with stating your enthusiasm someone’s dining choice – I’ve occasionally had people tell me they were going to eat at my favorite restaurant, and I’ve given them a compliment on their choice, and usually asked if they’ve tried my favorite thing on the menu. I’ve never had anyone act anything but pleased. Until she started hinting for the dinner invite, she could have been taken as someone a little awkward or lacking in social grace who was trying to be friendly. But angling for a stranger to take you along on a dinner reservation, especially when it’s just been established that the dinner reservation is a family reunion? The mind boggles.

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Calli Arcale November 1, 2012 at 11:42 am

Bean dip would probably not have been effective. Even straight up saying “Look, I’ve been polite so far, but I have no idea who you are, you don’t know who we are, and you are NOT invited to our private dinner with [spouse/father],” would not work, as she’d respond. OP, your mother did beautifully by exiting the conversation entirely.

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AS November 1, 2012 at 11:45 am

… and I am hoping she didn’t get a job in your father’s firm. Jeez! What a nerve?

OP – you were probably quite direct, though perfectly polite. I am sometimes that way, even though I am well out of high school and college, just to cut short the long awkward moments when we keep on trying to bean dip or throw hints to the clueless. But most people usually get it when you say point blank that you want family time! This is awful networking, even if that is what she was trying to do. No one wants to be around moochers!

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HonorH November 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

Networking is one thing. Inviting yourself to a family’s private dinner is another entirely. What, did she expect that Dad would be so charmed by her inserting herself into their dinner plans that he’s hire her on the spot? Sheesh!

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Ellen November 1, 2012 at 11:59 am

Well done, Mom!

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Library Diva November 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Good lord. It’s a good thing they ran. Before long, this woman would be sleeping on the family’s couch! This lady is the reason why people are afraid to talk to others in public places. Most people are perfectly nice, but I think everyone’s had at least one weird encounter like this.

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Stacey Frith-Smith November 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm

If checking for the definition of temerity in Webster’s, would we see this story? Many people assume that their presence, their opinion, and their talents are indispensable to any endeavor or occasion in which they take an interest. Your comment about her facial expression at your departure sums it all up. She obviously thought her wishes should trump everyone those of everyone else.

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Lo November 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm

People like this terrify me because they have no shame. They make you spell it out for them which makes things awkward for everyone.

You both did a wonderful job of keeping this person at bay.

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Abby November 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

In a way, I feel a bit sorry for this woman. She must be absolutely desperate for work to completely sacrifice her dignity and all but beg to be included in the private family dinner of a family she does not even know (or hasn’t even met in a certain member’s case). I agree with the other poster that bean dipping would not have helped here. The woman would have just kept bringing the dinner up no matter what diversion techniques were used.

Leaving the store was probably the only option. That’s funny though- looking back to make sure she wasn’t following you.

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hakayama November 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm

It is unfortunate that the OP and her Mom shared much too much information at that encounter. Probably it was a great learning experience for “young OP”, and not just of the knitting variety.
In my days of riding the now partly flooded subways of NYC, I was sometimes the “recipient” of confidences of my fellow passengers. In some cases, it was a true “crisis of the moment”. In others, it was something “off” with the whole person.
The “stranger” that latched onto the OP and Mom, does bring an echo of disturbance.

@Coralreef: as a self-designated spokesperson for the much maligned leeches, I need to bring your attention to the fact that medical practice is rediscovering the benefits of said animals. No benefits of moochers have been found to date. ;-)

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Cat Whisperer November 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Amazing.

OP, you and your mother both did a fine job of maintaining grace and graciousness under pressure. While I can feel some compassion for the woman who was trying to graft herself onto the family dinner, there are limits. And what this woman was trying to do went so far beyond the scope of anything reasonable that it’s jaw-dropping astonishing.

What the woman might have done, that would have been reasonable:

If you’re looking for a job, a smart thing to do is to get yourself some business cards with your name, phone number, eMail address, and a brief– one line is best, two lines at most– description or summary of the work you do. The cards don’t have to be fancy, and if you have a good printer set-up at home you can buy card stock and print them yourself; otherwise you can get them from a print shop very inexpensively.

Then, when you encounter someone who may be able to assist you in your job hunt, it goes like this:

You’re at a yarn shop and in conversation with someone there, you find out her husband works in the field you’re trying to get a job in. You tell your new acquaintance, “I’ve been looking for a job in that field. Can I give you a card to give to your husband in case his company is looking to hire people?”

If the new acquaintance says “Yes,” you give her a card. “This is my contact information. If there are any openings, I would very much like to hear from someone. Perhaps your husband could pass this on to someone else at the company if he knows of anyone who is hiring. That would be wonderful!” And that ends any discussion of jobs, and hiring, and anything else not connected to casual socialization.

While it’s unlikely that anything will come of such a casual contact, you never know. When you’re networking, you don’t expect every contact you make to bear fruit. But you’ve put the information that you’re looking for a job out there in a way that isn’t pushy, isn’t intrusive, and doesn’t alienate someone who might potentially be able to help you.

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Allie November 1, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Sadly, the spectre of encountering such people is why I tend to avoid interacting with strangers at all costs. I probably miss out on interacting with all kinds of interesting people as a consequence, but perhaps that’s a reasonable price to pay. I congratulate you on your escape. Thank goodness she did not show up at the restaurant!

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RMM0278 November 1, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Given all the job “advice” I’ve seen out there, I’m not entirely shocked this happened. Frequently, I read articles about how to get a job, network, resume tips, etc. Almost everything I’ve read tells job seekers to tell everyone they are looking for a job; follow up with everyone you meet because you never know; network, network, network; go through all your contacts; talk to everyone you can in your field; etc. (It’s the same old advice just recycled.)

Those articles are written under the assumption that job seekers aren’t doing ENOUGH. In this economy, that’s highly unlikely.

Job tips + already desperate people looking for work = harassment

I encounter people looking for jobs all the time. And you know what? I don’t need to be reminded. Saying it once is all it takes. If I don’t know of anything, it’s because I don’t know of anything and not because I don’t know the other person is looking. I get irritated about the multiple reminders. Then I think the person is annoying and that’s why he can’t find a job as opposed to bad luck.

Out of all the articles I’ve read, I do wish I’d come across some that talk about going overboard like this woman.

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cathy November 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I’ve run into people like this – they act like they’re your new best friend after an hour’s (or less) acquaintance and they just don’t have the normal social boundaries to know what is and is not appropriate behavior. It’s like they never learned how to make friends when they were young and they don’t know the steps to form a relationship, they just dive right in. Op’s mom was great. Wish I had had such presence of mind to deal with this type of weirdo when it happened to me!

I also have so say I love the expression “bean dipping”. I had never heard this phrase until I saw it on this site and it is hilarious, and also very useful. :-)

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DGS November 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Good job, OP’s Mom, but wow, what a strange and oddly entitled woman…

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Angel November 1, 2012 at 6:36 pm

By any chance is this woman related to Michael Scott? Because she sounds like the female version of him. Sometimes it’s tough to believe that people like this actually exist, but unfortunately, they do. I had a friend like this in college. Recently stopped being friends with her because I realized that we could never plan anything without her expecting an invitation. We were not even that close, but still, she expected an invitation to my house just because I was inviting mutual friends. I could totally see her doing just what that woman in the story did. Example: we were in NYC and it was cold outside. Rather than just buying earmuffs from one of the dozens of street vendors available, she asked the peanut vendor: “hey can I have your ear muffs?” she had never met him before in her life. And he gave her his ear muffs! I and another friend who was with us, were flabbergasted! Couldn’t believe it! We had to make her GIVE THEM BACK. This is a 40 year old woman. At that point I knew, I cannot go anywhere else with this person. Outrageous!

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Rug Pilot November 1, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I had a friend like that who would overhear a conversation about going somewhere and invite himself along. Then he would insist that we all eat at a restaurant that I knew the others could not afford. When we objected, he offered to pay for the lower income people’s meals. Then he would gripe about being taken advange of. His own fault.

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Jelly_Rose November 1, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I had a friend like this, she would just show up at my and my ex’s house, simply because she was attrated to both myself and my ex… Like that gave her a right to show up whenever she pleased! She would also wait around until we ate, then ate half the food without being offered any. I was fine with making her an extra cup of ramen, since we were all poor students but she did this with a pizza! An entire half of pizza to herself without so much as a thank you…. We disappeared into the night not too long after, I still get emails every once in a while from her wanting to hook up.

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Jelly_Rose November 1, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Err…. attracted was the word I was going for.

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Jenny November 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm

You should have gotten her name . . . to warn your Dad, his company, and so on NEVER to hire someone so pushy and clueless!

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Rebecca November 2, 2012 at 12:27 am

I think the OP’s mom handled it fine and it worked eventually, but I think the conversation could have ended a lot sooner if she’d spelled it out: “I’m sorry, but this is a family dinner. We’re looking forward to a dinner with just the three of us.”

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PM November 2, 2012 at 8:15 am

You know, the more I think of this, the more I blame the whole “positive thinking”/ “don’t take no for an answer” way of thinking that so many self-help books and gurus are pushing. They lead people to believe if they want something badly enough, it will eventually be theirs. But there doesn’t seem to be any mention of the wants/needs of other people or the feelings they could hurt along the way.

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sillyme November 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Rude: Definitely very. Lonely? Probably also very.

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--Lia November 2, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Great story. Well told. And I love the ending– the part where the stranger does NOT end up crashing your party. I guess from her point of view it’s nothing-ventured-nothing-gained, or she might just love making people feel uncomfortable as a sort of hobby. I also like PM’s insight. The woman might think that in the past she hasn’t gotten dinner invitations because she wasn’t trying hard enough.

There’s another character in this story I feel sorry for. That’s the yarn shop owner. A few characters like that woman could put her out of business– or at least make her rethink the long nice table in the store. Good customers would stop dropping by if they knew they’d run into pushy folks like that one.

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Michellep November 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Love the story, but sorry you and your mom had to deal with it. You both handled it fine.

I’m surprised at the posters here who have suggested the OP and her mother were at fault for “telling the woman so many personal things about themselves.” They didn’t tell her anything that wasn’t appropriate and nothing that would entitle her to believe she should join their family for anything.

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MinnieMouse November 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Great post, extremely well-told! It’s incredible that people like this exist. It’s like Michael Scott from The Office in real life.

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Cat November 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Bean dipping does not work with a person like this. You would have to dump the entire bowl on her head.
Your mother handled it very well. Never allow someone to pressure you into making a bad decision. This was not a person so much as an emotional leech. Once she latched onto you, you’d have had a hard time pulling her off.

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Charlotte November 3, 2012 at 6:39 am

There are some people who won’t take a hint. However maybe this woman wanted to make friends and she went the wrong way about it.

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Mabel November 3, 2012 at 8:01 am

Really? World class con artist? I thought she was an incredibly obvious boob. OP’s mom did a great job of slipping out from under her, though. Ha!

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Enna November 5, 2012 at 11:45 am

Wow. I hope this lady learnt a lesson here (but that could be wishful thinking). I think the OP and her Mum handled it very well. Some people just don’t understand the word “no”.

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