I am writing a non literacy based blog today. I just feel very strongly that I need to get this off my chest.
Today myself, my husband and our 19 month old son went out for a family day out. We have been looking forward to it for a while as we have been putting a bit of money to one side this month for a nice dinner out. We used to eat out a lot before having our son but finances now mean that we usually get one night out a month to somewhere really cheap. But Pizza Express had sent a voucher for 40% off and this is my husband’s favourite restaurant so we decided to treat ourselves. My husband has a lot of social anxiety so a dinner out is about as social as it gets. Parties and pubs are off the list of options. Anywhere crowded is a major struggle.
Today we went to Pizza Express in King Street, Nottingham. We have been there a few times in the past and always enjoyed it. We arrived at lunchtime and there were a few tables occupied but it was half empty. We were seated at a table near the door and a waitress brought us a highchair for our son. We put him in it and he had a little shout. And I mean a little shout. A typical 19 month old cry for attention. Short and sharp but not major and certainly not sustained or tantrum like. Immediately the couple seated behind us, we’ll the man, started loudly complaining.
“Oh great we CANNOT sit next to this”
I hope by “this” he meant the noise rather than us as people.
Our son let out another little shout. He actually doesn’t think he is shouting, he is just finding his voice. We asked him, calmly and quietly to please stop shouting. But he is 1, so he gave another little shout. Again a short burst, there was nothing sustained. He is not a tantrum child…everything is forgotten within two minutes. And today he is teething. Badly. His Calpol had worn off and he just wanted more. We were settling ourselves down and getting the medicine out for him so that he could enjoy his lunch too.
You see he loves eating out. I have always taken him out and he is 99% of the time an utter delight to take out with us. We never have a babysitter we always take him with us. It is our special time as a family. But the man kept loudly complaining. So far we have been at the table for a total of 90 seconds. And the man is now asking the waitress to move them to another table. And that’s fine. It’s their choice. I can understand not wanting a toddler next to you if it was your special dinner, we certainly appreciate how precious such time is as it is our special treat time too.
We tried to silence our son and he quickly calmed with a bit of bonjela. But you see the damage was done. By not just quietly asking to move…by making a loud, embarrassing fuss of making sure your voice was loud enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear (knowing full well you wanted me to hear you complaining) you had ruined the whole experience for us. Not by moving. But by making such a rude deal of it all. By this point, having been concentrating on my baby, who now had his bonjela and calmed down, I looked to my husband who was visibly stressed out.
That made me really cross. The waitress came to take our drinks order and I told her we might leave it. She took the order but said she would give us a minute or two to decide. One look at my husband though and my gorgeous son, who had done nothing wrong past being a one year old, I knew I couldn’t sit and enjoy lunch there today. Not in any dramatic way, it was just not going to feel like a good way to spend the money we had set aside. So we made a decision to leave. I did go and say to you, stranger, that I was sorry your dinner was upset for a whole minute and a half. I said I hope you enjoy your dinner. That was true, I hope you did. But I was shaking and my voice trembled and I nearly cried in all honesty.
Now this has been fairly negative so far but I am not writing this publicly because I think public moaning is a good thing…but because I really want to praise the Pizza Express staff. They moved you when you asked, as well they should have, you are a customer as much as us and you have the right to feel comfortable (would have been nice to afford us the same luxury by keeping your thoughts private and away from us but that has been done), but then they came to us. Two members of staff tried to convince us to stay. They let us know, with real honest, heartfelt caring, that we were welcome. That families ARE welcome, with all the mess and noise that may include…and by no means is our son a trouble child or naughty in any other way…he was just hurting for a minute. We would have given the bonjela earlier but the thing is he is so good that he doesn’t make a fuss until he really needs to so that was the first we knew about it.
The staff asked us to come back another time and told us we are always welcome. I said it then and I say it again now. We will be back Pizza Express. Because not only is your food amazing, you really care. Your staff care about people. You provide not just the standard crayons and colouring sheets for kids, but stickers and a chefs hat and on previous occasions have given my son strawberries just because he looked longingly at some you had on the counter. You spot these things because you care. Thank you. If you hadn’t done what you did we would have left feeling a lot more bitter ( yes I am a tiny bit bitter but it will fade I promise!) and a lot more likely to visit you next month.
For today we had a Nando’s and they were fab too. We didn’t feel uncomfortable and no one had to move. But then our son was also silent and well behaved as he usually is. One minute of little shouts made a big difference today but we are incredibly blessed with a clever son who is a pleasure to be around.