The Man of Feeling at Sizzler: W. Maidment Dines Out

“Such was my disposition that after the eisteddford
I was dismayed to hear murmurings, from my wife and daughter in concert,
That there was a Sizzler nearby, that it was not above one block
From the hall we were now quitting, and that we should repair there without delay.
This intelligence caused me the utmost disquiet, and I reacted
By giving voice immoderately to the effect that under no circumstance
Would I countenance such a destination. As we set off
Promptly in that direction I continued to propose, from the rear,
My considerable and cogent arguments against such a course.
As persuasive and telling were these counters they were to no avail.
I dragged further behind. Once or twice my life’s dear bearers
Of delight and pride urged me to follow with more expedition.
I continued my remonstrations little heard or, if heard,
Little noted. In fact notwithstanding the mixture of cajolery and neglect
I received in equal measure as we advanced steadily
Towards the disagreeably named Sizzler, I would not, nay,
Could not stem my peevish protests: of the provisions
I said I surmised the negative catalogue must be copious.
I raised the spectre of containers of reheated plastics;
I did not want to be herded like unhappy cattle in a race
Past cornucopias draped with plastic grape leaves;
I wanted linen, I wanted deferential attendants schooled in discretion,
I deplored the probability of piped music. In short,
I presented an unanswerable case against the rash expedition
Now dangerously imminent, yet in return went simply unanswered.
My sole support in this was my granddaughter who was also
Behaving badly. The rest of the party were however of one mind,
Namely that we should willy nilly be made subject to a victualler’s
Which would (I warned) embody bad taste in every sense.
Imagine then my surprise when on being seated at a table
And food being placed before me I found that, as well as consuming
An abundance of fresh vegetables and salads pleasingly deployed
I was obliged to accompany this with a good serving of humble pie.
My recital of reasons, my litany of grievances were shown
To be baseless; I had to own to the unexpected excellence
Both of these dishes and the manner of their presentation,
And had thereby to undergo the expression of that painful sentiment,
Namely the celebration of that which, once urged upon me
By my wise guides, I had spurned. For indeed I found
That we were not to be forced to endure without resistance
The caprices of wanton obsequiousness from callous staff;
Neither jeering nor raucous serving wenches nor callow
And indifferent youths would scorn our selection. I was in truth
To feel none of the legendary humiliations heaped on the patron who seeks redress
In exchanges such as these following: ‘Waiter, you have
Your thumb in my soup.’ ‘It’s all right Sir, it isn’t hot’;
‘Waiter, there is a fly in my soup.’ ‘Sir, if you please,
Keep your voice down or everyone will want one’;
‘Waiter, is there rice pudding on the menu?’ ‘There was, Sir,
But I’ve wiped it off.’ Even had I, from a desire to salvage
Some vindication of my former anxiety, hoped for some small infringement,
There was none. Here was to be found no trace
Of the disagreeable or demeaning. In fact the temptation
Was to go back for second helpings, an impulse not wholly resisted.”


from John Watson, A First Reader (2003). By permission of Five Islands Press and John Watson

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