A week or so ago I flew to Dubrovnik, Croatia from Milan, Italy. Of course, it made sense to connect through Warsaw, Poland.
Yes, this is sarcasm. If you don’t have a map at your fingertips, let me just tell you that this is like traveling from New Orleans to Miami via Pittsburgh, so clearly I had no input in designing the flight plans. Unfortunately, my layover was not long enough for me to see any of this city — it was just long enough for me to grab lunch.
For the flight center of a major European capitol, the Warsaw airport is surprisingly small with not very many dining opportunities. I found a little table at what appeared to be the only option anywhere near my departure gate. The place was fairly busy at that hour with many patrons scouring the establishment for seating, most of them unsuccessfully, forcing them to opt for take-away.
Public Dining Etiquette:
“In the United States it is very uncommon to have communal tables.”
The table I was fortunate to snag was meant for two. I was alone, leaving the seat on the other side conspicuously vacant. After about five minutes a middle-aged woman approached me. At first I thought she was waitstaff but quickly realized she was a customer, or at least hoped to be. She abruptly asked me something in Polish – a language I cannot understand, at all. I politely responded and offered up the two languages I have in my arsenal with which to communicate – Spanish and English. She liked neither choice and resorted to pantomime to clearly communicate that she wished to sit at my table with me.
I am a world traveler. I am open to other cultures and their norms. In the United States it is very uncommon to have communal tables. And the ones that I have encountered are usually long, picnic-style tables with bench-side seating. Those tables are clearly made for many individuals to share. This was the first time a stranger was requesting to share my fairly small table, built for two.
An Unwanted Lunch Guest:
“Luckily, most of us have the best tool at our disposal to deal with uncomfortable social situations.”
I nodded yes to the lady and she brusquely sat down. It’s funny how in life we can pick up on someone’s energy and even a sense of who they are by merely their tone and physical gestures. Both her intonation and gestures were jagged and unfriendly, at least to my American sensibilities. Nonetheless, there we were, two strangers without the ability to talk to one another sitting in very close proximity. Awkward comes to mind.
Luckily, most of us have the best tool at our disposal to deal with uncomfortable social situations. Immediately, I whipped out my smartphone and enabled my data roaming service, eliminating the need to look up or feign interest in cobbling together some meager form of communication. I ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. I was surprised when the server came back with two – one for me and one for my unexpected table companion. Given I understand zero Polish, I was unaware we both ordered the same dish.
The salad was subpar. Just-out-of-the-refrigerator iceberg lettuce was the foundation upon which they threw some weirdly-spiced chicken and limp, soggy croutons. This was not delicious. This was downright yucky. But not out of the realm of typical or possible when dealing with airport food options. I proceeded to cherry-pick around the plate, prioritizing the protein and consuming some of the tasteless icy iceberg, all while hiding from my table side interloper inside my social media apps.
A Karen In The Making:
“I immediately wanted the room to know that she and I were NOT together.”
Everything would have been fine and not worthy of reporting except this lady, who was already agitated, became visibly and audibly angry about the salad in front of her. She glared at me, signaling clearly that she thought this meal was a pile of poo. It was obvious she wanted company in this sentiment. She was looking for validation — a partner-in-crime, so to speak, for the “about to happen” bad behavior.
And the bad behavior, even though it was executed in Polish, was very easy to understand. Right in front of me she began waving her arms at the hired help while spouting out curt-sounding words. She was not having any of this and she made it clear to everyone around us that the monstrosity in front of her pretending to be a salad was unacceptable. She indignantly stood up and stormed off, leaving me once again alone – with two terrible lunch options on my table.
I was mortified. Seeing as we were seated at the same table, I immediately wanted the room to know that she and I were NOT together. That she, the Polish Karen, was acting of her own accord. As Karen heatedly headed out of the establishment, the patrons collectively sighed in relief. It is impressive how one person’s energy can rule the collective mood of those around them. Now all that was left for me to do was wonder how the matter of the bill would be settled.
P.S. My apologies to all the kind Karens who have been swept up in this meme-driven social media fad. No real Karens were hurt in the making of this Jack’s Smack.