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Cruising For An Epic Meltdown

I recently had the privilege of traveling trans-Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary 2. The ship is beautiful, the service excellent, and certain standards maintained (you were expected to dress nicely for dinner in the dining room, for instance). You might think (hope?) that this might encourage people to be on their best behaviour, but alas, that’s not always the case.

For dinner, I was seated at a large table with five fellow passengers: four men and one very elegant lady I’ll call A. For the most part, everyone was very warm and friendly, but one of the men, let’s call him M, was a little odd. It was little things, mostly: the first night on board, when I arrived at the table, he refused to introduce himself, as the others had. In fact, he never said one word to me the entire seven-day trip. He also didn’t wait for everyone at the table to be served before starting to eat, which I’d always been taught was rather rude. But whatever, I shrugged it off and chatted with the others, who were all lovely people.

A few nights into the voyage, we had a formal dinner. The men wore suits, and the ladies were all in beautiful evening wear. The meal was also quite elaborate and served with much ceremony. When the main courses came out, a waiter placed M’s dish in front of him, and M immediately asked the waiter for more bread. The waiter hurried off to go fetch the bread basket, as another waiter stepped forward to offer M sauce for his meat. M curtly refused it and once again demanded bread. That waiter, who knew someone else had gone to get it, nodded and moved on to the next person. A third waiter offered M freshly cracked pepper for his meal (none of this was unusual–the waiters tended to swarm the table to get everyone their meals and accompaniments quickly and efficiently).

At this point, M completely lost it.

“No, I don’t want horseradish, I don’t want pepper, I want bread!” he screamed at the hapless pepper-waiter. “Bread! BREAD! BREADBREADBREADBREADBREAD!” And he hammered his fist against the table like a three-year-old, sending everyone’s plates and cutlery clattering.

We were all in shock. Other tables turned to glare at this cretin, who’d disturbed the peace of the restaurant. The other gentlemen at our table looked down at their plates in embarrassment. My jaw dropped (and I’m not the jaw-dropping sort) and A and I exchanged aghast “can you believe this?” looks. The bread arrived — and mind, he’d had to wait maybe 30 seconds for this bread, no more — and M was appeased. He went on with his meal as if nothing had happened. After the meal was over and M had strolled out, A apologized to one of our waiters for his behavior. M certainly wasn’t going to say he was sorry — he didn’t even seem to realize he’d behaved badly.

After that, the rest of us kept our distance from him, though I couldn’t help but notice (and be amused) that the waiters were constantly coming over and offering his bread for the rest of the voyage. 1101-12


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • JeanLouiseFinch November 15, 2012, 12:12 am

    My first thought was mental illness of some type. I heard about someone on the radio going through a a biologically caused mental illness who did pretty much the same thing in public until she got treated. She has recently written a book called “Brain On Fire.” But all of you out there – there is one way not to be “stuck” when cruising if the cruise line has the option. When you make your booking, tell the cruise line you want the “freestyle dining” option if it’s available. You go to the dining room and they seat you randomly at a different table every night. My husband and I are going on a cruise over Christmas and opted for that rather than getting stuck with the same group of people every night. Last time we went on a cruise, we were seated at a table with some very nice people from Hong Kong who did not speak a word of English (I took to bringing my sketchbook to help them with their menu), and a truly obnoxious man on his honeymoon with a horribly seasick wife who he dragged down to dinner every night. The poor lady just sat there getting greener and greener, but she kept using eucalyptus oil as a seasick remedy and she smelled so strongly of it that I felt like I should be lying in bed with a towel around my neck and my mother taking my temperature! I decided that unlike Koala bears, this smell did not whet my appetite at all. The other problem was that, although I felt sorry for this woman, I felt like killing her husband who kept talking about a free cruise he had won and how he was going to arrange their booking once they got home! He also kept ordering a second entree and forcing his wife to wait for him to finish. I thought his wife was going to throw up at the table the whole time. We started to skip the meals at the main dining room.

  • Sugaryfun November 15, 2012, 1:10 am

    The not starting until everyone is served thing is a rule that changes in different households. My Mum always urges people to start straight away once their food is served. In my home if my husband’s cooking I start when he serves me so I get more time to eat in case I have to go and deal with my children halfway through the meal. If I’m cooking he does the same. Different strokes for different folks. In a restaurant I’d normally expect to wait until everybody has their food but I wouldn’t know whether that would be the same if you’re with a random group of strangers on a cruise rather than with a group of friends or family.

  • Sugaryfun November 15, 2012, 1:13 am

    BTW it is Tourette’s Syndrome, not “Turrets”.That gave me a weird mental picture for a second of a guy with turrets coming out of his head.

  • Jenn50 November 15, 2012, 8:45 am

    Sorry, michellep, but people WILL speculate about things like mental illness and Asperger’s. It’s not a diagnosis, and it doesn’t make the behaviour okay, but it can help to explain things that seem so bizarre to the rest of us. A dear family member of mine has Asperger’s, and I could picture him behaving EXACTLY as the Bread Guy did, for a couple of different reasons. 1) He has a really tough time with certain food flavours and textures. He tends to eat very few foods, and loathes sauces and accompaniments. 2) He has trouble recognizing social cues and cannot divine people’s motives, which coupled with a childhood full of bullying, has left him suspicious of people, and he tends to assume people are taunting him. So, a fairly typical exchange at a dinner with people who don’t know him very well, might look like this:
    “You’ve only taken chicken and potatoes. Would you like some corn?”
    “No, thanks, just some bread.”
    “How about gravy?”
    “No thanks.”
    “Cole slaw?”
    “No. Just bread.”
    In his mind, it’s not so much that he really wants the bread, it’s that he feels badgered after already making it clear that he doesn’t want anything else. He feels as though he has shown extreme restraint up until this point, and is being made fun of. The people offering him food have a lifetime of experience with guests who say, “Oh, nothing more, thanks. Oh wait! Is that stuffing?” and want to accommodate, and sometimes, they just can’t believe that someone would only want dry chicken and potatoes and bread. So they DO keep offering, and in a sense, harping on him. My relative often complains that “When I say, ‘That’s all.’ I mean it. Why do they keep bugging me?” and I explain to him that other people sometimes say “That’s all.” but mean “unless you have some creamed corn I haven’t been offered.” This is very confusing to some people on the autism spectrum, who tend to think in very concrete ways. I don’t know if any of this applies to Bread Guy. He might have been snappish from low blood sugar, he might just be a jerk. Regardless of the reason, it’s shockingly rude, and someone close to him would be doing him a kindness to educate him about the impact his conduct has on others. I would applaud a manager who stepped in and said “Sir, your bread is on the way. Please do not raise your voice in the dining room; you’re upsetting the other guests.” And if he continued, to have his food served to him in his room.

  • Elizabeth November 15, 2012, 10:49 am

    Unless food is being served from a buffet, eating does not commence until everyone is served OR until the hostess puts her napkin in her lap. (I’m surprised at the number of readers that think otherwise – wow!)

  • Enna November 15, 2012, 11:17 am

    I don’t see why A aplogised. I would have been tempted to say to the waiter and his colleagues what good work they were doing and how bad that guest was. Didn’t the turnip notice the first waiter went to get his bread? Or did he want 3 waiters to get 3 servings of bread for him?

  • Lola November 15, 2012, 12:14 pm

    The outburst itself could be excused under certain circumstances, but not apologizing afterwards cannot.

  • FerrisW November 15, 2012, 3:28 pm

    Lauren- regarding your last comment about being charged twice, what’s an acceptable time period to wait before re-requesting something? I had an unpleasant experience where I asked for a drink, and the waitress went off and entered it into the computer, but never brought it to me. 20 minutes later, when we were ordering dessert from a different waitress, I said that I’d already ordered a drink but it hadn’t arrived. The new waitress disappeared off and this time returned with the drink, but when the bill came I saw that she’d also entered the drink. When I argued I’d only received one drink, I was told that the bill said two drinks and so I must pay for two, regardless of how many I received. I spoke to a manager who told me off for ordering the same thing from two waitresses and asked ‘what did you expect?’ as if it was my fault. He refused to remove the cost of the drink, so I reluctantly paid and never went back, but I’ve never been sure who was at fault in this situation.

  • Enna November 16, 2012, 11:37 am

    @ Lola – I don’t see how the outburst was excusable in this circumstance. The other waiters were just doing their job of offering different accomements to the meal. All he needed to say was “No thank you, I’ve asked for bread.”

    Funny the way the waiters kept offering him bread afterwards.

  • Lauren November 19, 2012, 1:45 pm

    FerrisW, I’d say about 5 to 7 minutes, and even then it’s best if you ask nicely, something along the lines of ” I asked for an X a while ago, when do you think it will be ready?” Make sure the server understands you’ve already asked for it. After that, give it another 5 minutes. Sometimes places get crazy busy and we may not have time to make your drink right away, especially if its complicated like a mixed drink or time consuming like a milkshake.
    On a side note, if you put your dirty plates on the edge of the table where we can get to them easily, most servers will whisk them away without interrupting your conversation. Same goes for coffee and water glasses getting refilled.

  • M November 20, 2012, 11:27 am

    @FerrisW if that particular restaurant you dined in was part of a chain, I would suggest writing a letter to the company about how you were treated… They may be able to do something for you

  • Mabel November 27, 2012, 1:40 pm

    I’m glad you didn’t let it spoil your voyage, though, OP. I have always wanted to go on the Queen Mary 2. I probably never will, though. You’re so lucky! And anyway, you ended up with a good Ehell story! 🙂