Serves You Right

For some time now the Hub has been telling me that I am becoming more and more English culturally. But it's hard to know. These changes happen so slowly sometimes. When you grow up somewhere you often really identify strongly with the beliefs and attitudes of that culture. And I think (and hope) that the American tenaciousness and optimism will never leave me.

But the other day I had a moment when I thought: I cannot believe I just did that. I cannot believe that I have done such an about face.

To understand what happened you need to know the background.

During my first year here (in 2002), the World Cup was on. And it was happening in Japan and South Korea so there were matches on during the day U.K. time. My editor and I were out in the City at meetings, discussing derivatives, because that was the very fun subject I covered at the time. And after one meeting we popped into a pub to watch some football and eat lunch.

We ordered our lunch and waited. And waited. I guess it was really busy. It was the World Cup after all.

There were two women sitting near us, who had come in after us, and I noticed that they surprisingly got served their food before us. As I watched them -- because I was very hungry -- I noticed they were looking at their plates in a sort of puzzled manner. But they picked up their forks and started eating anyway.

I waved the waiter over, because of course I had an inkling that they had been served our food. After all, it was what we had ordered. There was a kerfuffle and the waiter realized his mistake. I cannot actually remember how it all got sorted out, but it did, and eventually we got our lunch.

But I was enraged. I ranted and raved at my editor. How could someone just eat food that wasn't theirs? How would you not say anything if you had been served something you hadn't ordered?

Well. The other day I was having lunch with an old friend. I ordered a tartine with parma ham and mozarella. And then I changed my mind. I told the waitress, hang on, actually I wanted the smoked chicken one instead. She wrote it down and off she went, as we went back to catching up and having a great chat.

When our food arrived the waitress served me a tartine with parma ham and mozarella. I looked at it and shrugged. It looked good anyway. And I didn't feel like it was nice to point out her mistake. It was certainly not going to make any real difference to me what I ate that day.

When we had finished our meal, the waitress came over and started apologizing profusely. She had realized her mistake and was very worried. I told her it was not a big deal, that my lunch was delicious and joked that maybe that was what I really wanted all along anyway. And then when she was gone I told my friend the story I have just told you.

English people eat what they are served. Happily. It's a good way to live, I think. I guess if you have a food allergy it's a different case. Or if the mistake had involved seafood it would have been a different story (I hate fish & seafood). But it didn't. She gave us a 10% discount, which was nice, but really I didn't care. I was just happy I didn't ruin her day by getting her in trouble in some way for a mistake that anyone could have made.

It's just funny how much people really can change.

Photo credit: frederic.gombert Holidays ambiance via photopin (license)

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