Author Topic: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant  (Read 3312 times)

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Ezeesee

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Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« on: December 29, 2012, 02:15:16 PM »
Hi all

This is a situation I was in a few days ago, and wondering if I could have said anything without being rude.

Setting the scene:

I was at a busy restaurant at lunchtime with a friend. It's set up fairly informally, with long tables and benches, with room for about 20-30 people at each table (Wagamama's for the UK e-hellions). When it's not busy they spread people out, but obviously when it's busy you're put wherever there are enough spaces for your group. My friend and I were sitting about in the middle of the table facing each other, with a group of four on one side (and another group on the other side, but they're not relevant to this story!).

The issue:

One of the group-of-4 started talking about how he'd been sick recently. Flu-sick. With descriptions of symptoms. Graphic descriptions  :o

I was sitting right next to this person, and there was absolutely no way that I would not have heard. To be fair to him, he wasn't talking loudly - if it was a normal restaurant with separate tables I'd have been very surprised if anyone had been able to overhear. But it's not like they didn't know we were there.

As it happened, we had finished eating and were in the middle of deciding about dessert so it didn't actually ruin my meal (although we did decide to just pay the bill and leave).

My question:

Would I have been OK to ask him to change the subject? I'm generally squeamish so could just be being oversensitive to the subject matter, though my friend was a bit disgusted as well. If it matters, usually when I eat there people tend to make eye contact with their table mates, maybe a friendly head-nod. There was nothing with this group though, so I'd have been coming out of nowhere.

This has turned into a very long post, about quite a simple question! The line between overhearing / eavesdropping is narrow though, and I really don't want to cross it.

Shoo

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2012, 02:25:45 PM »
I would have looked at him and said, "Do you mind?  We're trying to eat here."

gramma dishes

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2012, 02:26:52 PM »
There's a difference.  Overhearing is just that.  Someone is speaking loudly enough that others almost can't HELP but hear them.

Eavesdropping, on the other hand, is quite deliberate.  You're TRYING to hear them even if they're attempting to keep their conversation reasonably private.

I doubt if the guy intended specifically for you to hear, but he certainly knew you were right there and probably would!  What you did was overhear.  And I would have been disgusted too. 

I don't think your request for a change of subject would actually have been rude, but I think you probably handled it best doing just what you did.  Leaving!

TootsNYC

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2012, 04:41:37 PM »
I think you could have said, "Eww, I'm sorry to interrupt, but could you not talk about that?"

Yankeegal77

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2012, 04:51:57 PM »
How awkward. Overhearing is just that and frankly, in a setting like that, I would censored myself and *not* gone into icky detail.

I think you were well within etiquette to say something along the lines of "I beg your pardon, but as it's mealtime, do you mind...?"

kherbert05

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2012, 05:53:57 PM »
I'm with the others. I would have said something along the line of "I'm sorry but  I can't help but overhear you. That is making it impossible for me to enjoy my food."
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Mental Magpie

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2012, 06:38:57 PM »
I would have looked at him and said, "Do you mind?  We're trying to eat here."

This rubs me the wrong way; maybe it's the tone I'm reading it in.  I see it accompanied with a scoff and a snotty eye roll.



I think because you were literally sitting right next to him, not a table away, it wouldn't be rude to ask if he would refrain from talking about that.  Even a sheepish, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but could you please not talk about that while we're all eating?" would do.  I don't think commenting on how you find the topic disgusting is helpful either.  A simple request to not talk about it or to change the subject is perfectly reasonable and is likely to get the best response (him stopping and apologizing sheepishly).
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Shoo

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2012, 06:40:44 PM »
I would have looked at him and said, "Do you mind?  We're trying to eat here."

This rubs me the wrong way; maybe it's the tone I'm reading it in.  I see it accompanied with a scoff and a snotty eye roll.



I think because you were literally sitting right next to him, not a table away, it wouldn't be rude to ask if he would refrain from talking about that.  Even a sheepish, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but could you please not talk about that while we're all eating?" would do.  I don't think commenting on how you find the topic disgusting is helpful either.  A simple request to not talk about it or to change the subject is perfectly reasonable and is likely to get the best response (him stopping and apologizing sheepishly).

Well, I certainly wouldn't scoff at anybody.  I would be perfectly polite saying it.  But I see no reason to sugar coat it.  The guy is being a clod.

Mental Magpie

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2012, 06:42:21 PM »
I would have looked at him and said, "Do you mind?  We're trying to eat here."

This rubs me the wrong way; maybe it's the tone I'm reading it in.  I see it accompanied with a scoff and a snotty eye roll.



I think because you were literally sitting right next to him, not a table away, it wouldn't be rude to ask if he would refrain from talking about that.  Even a sheepish, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but could you please not talk about that while we're all eating?" would do.  I don't think commenting on how you find the topic disgusting is helpful either.  A simple request to not talk about it or to change the subject is perfectly reasonable and is likely to get the best response (him stopping and apologizing sheepishly).

Well, I certainly wouldn't scoff at anybody.  I would be perfectly polite saying it.  But I see no reason to sugar coat it.  The guy is being a clod.

I don't think you would anything other than polite, but that's still how I hear that phrase "Do you mind?" like that.  When it isn't something like, "Do you mind if I sit here?", I think it sounds PA.
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yokozbornak

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2012, 09:34:57 PM »
Since he wasn't being loud or disruptive, I personally think the onus is on you to move away if what he is saying disturbs you.  If he were in your party or addressing you, I would feel differently, but he is having a private conversation in a low voice. I don't think he should have to censor what he says because a stranger is taking offense.  (I would feel differently if he were being loud and obnoxious).

Mental Magpie

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2012, 09:42:22 PM »
Since he wasn't being loud or disruptive, I personally think the onus is on you to move away if what he is saying disturbs you.  If he were in your party or addressing you, I would feel differently, but he is having a private conversation in a low voice. I don't think he should have to censor what he says because a stranger is taking offense.  (I would feel differently if he were being loud and obnoxious).

Even if he is literally sitting in the seat next to her?  I'm not being snarky, I'm truly curious.  I'd agree with you if the guy was at the next table, but he was sitting probably less than a foot away.
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bansidhe

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2012, 09:42:44 PM »
Since he wasn't being loud or disruptive, I personally think the onus is on you to move away if what he is saying disturbs you.  If he were in your party or addressing you, I would feel differently, but he is having a private conversation in a low voice. I don't think he should have to censor what he says because a stranger is taking offense.  (I would feel differently if he were being loud and obnoxious).

Normally I would completely agree with this, but given the crowded restaurant setting, I have to disagree. There are topics that most people* don't like to hear about when eating and I think a little self-censorship is in order in an environment like that unless you are pretty sure you can't be overheard. In my opinion, the OP handled things just fine, but she would have been justified in politely asking for a change of subject.


* Having said that, I have to confess it wouldn't bother me at all.  :)
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yokozbornak

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2012, 12:22:48 AM »
Since he wasn't being loud or disruptive, I personally think the onus is on you to move away if what he is saying disturbs you.  If he were in your party or addressing you, I would feel differently, but he is having a private conversation in a low voice. I don't think he should have to censor what he says because a stranger is taking offense.  (I would feel differently if he were being loud and obnoxious).

Even if he is literally sitting in the seat next to her?  I'm not being snarky, I'm truly curious.  I'd agree with you if the guy was at the next table, but he was sitting probably less than a foot away.

In my opinion, yes, I think it would be rude to ask someone to stop a private conversation because you don't like the subject matter.  He was talking in a low tone so it's not like he was purposely trying to bother or bait the OP.  I think if what he was saying bothered her, she needed to move or strike up a conversation with her dining companion to avoid hearing what he was saying.

Obviously, most people disagree with me so I am not saying that I'm right.  This is just my opinion of the matter.

citadelle

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Re: Accidental overhearing at a restaurant
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2012, 02:20:34 PM »
I would smile at him and try to make it a joke, something like, "great dinner convo! Are you feeling better?" Not said sarcastically, but with a laugh and to let him know you were able to hear.