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Harrassed at Sound Bites


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Harrassed at Sound Bites

munchabunch | Mar 17, 2002 04:11 PM

A friend sent me this account of a disturbing visit to Sound Bites. It's legit. You can read the whole thing at Harvard's online Fletcher Ledger ( Excerpts below

I picked up my friend, Nilu, at 12:30 to go to Sound Bites, a hole-in-the-wall diner that had been recommended to me and by most Boston dining guides. We arrived around 12:40, ordered, and were pleasantly surprised by the quick service. About three bites into the meal, a tall, bulky, early 40s waiter/manager came to our table, "Keep eating! You are talking, and there is a line at the door!" At that moment, there was a line of about four or five people at the door of the busy restaurant. We laughed, thinking that this was some sort of standard line for all the customers on a Saturday afternoon. However, I noticed that he didn’t tell any of the other tables of customers to hurry up. Each time he passed our table, he looked to see if we were eating instead of talking. At any rate, we were in a hurry, too. As I chatted, Nilu suggested, "Keep moving your fork. He’s looking." Feeling a little weird, I made sure to have food on my fork each time he passed. But it didn’t end there.

The line at the door alternated from being a few people long to non-existent while we ate. I had basically finished eating when he came back again. "Are you finished yet?" he asked, moving to take my plate. Nilu wasn’t finished eating, so I said, "No, a couple more minutes." He left the plate and returned momentarily to leave the check. We were definitely being rushed along, but it seemed like no big deal. A couple of minutes later, a bus boy came and, since we were both finished, took our plates. As we were finishing our coffee, the increasingly brusque waiter returned and yelled, "Hurry up! Hurry up! There’s a line at the door. You can’t just sit there and talk!" By now, the entire restaurant was quiet and looking at us. He went on, "What are you going to do, sue me?!" He gesticulated wildly. "I’ve already been told that I’ll be sued once today! Sue me! I’m in a crazy mood!" I thought, how coincidental; we’re law students. However, I replied, "No, we just won’t come here again." Enraged, he yelled, "You just can’t come here and sit for two hours!" This struck me as entirely wrong. "No, it’s been more like twenty minutes." He came closer to us and yelled, "Two hours! Two hours! Don’t tell me twenty minutes!" Then he came over and threw down his order pad on our table. He jabbed at the number on the top and shouted that based on the number, many people had already been served since we came.

I wasn’t sure what he was trying to do by coming closer, be menacing? He was a large man, but how far were those wild gesticulations going to go? Seeing that everyone was continuing to look and feeling judged by the court of public opinion, I replied, "I picked up my friend at 12:30 to come here." He ignored my reply and went to take another table’s order. "I’m in a crazy mood! A crazy mood!" he yelled again and asked for their order. They were a table of five young men, and they chuckled at the older man’s inexplicable behavior. I thought that he continued his insulting behavior because he regarded the reactions of the rest of the customers as amused and entertained. For my part, it seemed that our fellow diners exhibited more of a gawkish curiosity.

I noticed a couple who were talking over their coffee and had been there since before we had sat down. What was going on? Why such strange behavior from the waiter? We left only the amount on the bill. A tip didn’t seem quite appropriate, as we hadn’t come to the restaurant to be insulted.

Before we left the restaurant, we filled up our to-go cups at the help-yourself coffee bar. ...He passed us once again. This time he yelled, "Get out! Get out! Take your friend, too! I don’t need your money! Don’t ever come back! You hear me?" ...We finished mixing cream at the coffee bar a minute later and walked out. He was standing outside smoking a cigarette. He wouldn’t look at us as we passed. I looked at my watch. It was 1:30.

In a late conversation, we made an observation that seemed to be the only explanation: We were the only table in the restaurant of two women unaccompanied by a man. Would the waiter have made such a scene if there had been a man at our table? Were we such easy prey for his harassment? While the scene was almost comical and vaguely threatening, his behavior was humiliating. The reaction of the table of young guys was disturbing, too. ...


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