stolen breakfast

This was going to be a post comparing Scandinavian and English breakfasts (I’ll save that for next), but then this morning happened.

When I walked into the dining room this morning, it was more crowded than the day before, and the only table that was open and clean was a four-top. I told a waiter that I’d be happy to sit at the first two-top he cleaned, and I set our guidebooks on the windowsill next to it.

After I poured a little milk over some cornflakes and strawberries–an indulgence, since we don’t keep boxed cereal at home–I found my way to the water pitcher blocked by a man pouring himself some orange juice and who excused himself in a French accent. All fine–until he made a beeline for my table. “Excuse me. Excuse me!” “Oh, you are sitting here?” I gestured to the books in the window and nodded. He waited for the table behind that one to be cleaned.

The room filled quickly, as did as the outside deck. I was ignored for a long time. Although I really, really wanted at least some coffee, I kept quiet until I heard the waiter delivering the table-thieving Frenchman’s hot breakfast to him, with not yet a drop of coffee in my cup. I flagged him down and pointed out I hadn’t even ordered yet, and he ran off. The waitress, who appeared to be the only one empowered to take orders, appeared a while later, and I placed an order and got some coffee.

I ate my order slowly waiting for J-P to finish his morning grooming and join me. The place was packed; no way I was giving up my hard-won table. The waiter passed by with the coffee carafe twice before I caught his eye on the third go, trying my best to look like he’d shot my puppy. He seemed surprised that I might want more coffee.

Then J-P joined me, and the same drama repeated itself. Meanwhile, French yachtsmen barged in from outside and up to the counter, demanding service. It appeared that about two of them were actually staying at the hotel, and the other twenty or so were just their sailing companions. The invasion completely broke down the hotel’s breakfast table-waiting system.

One of these interlopers stationed himself at the (newly cleared) table behind ours and ate a full English breakfast plate while J-P was waiting to order. Finally, the order was placed, the coffee was poured, and we looked hopeful as the waiter brought out what looked like his meal–in better time than mine had arrived.

The Frenchman at the table behind flagged him down and insisted that the dish was his. The waiter (we’d heard him called Simon) ignored J-P’s desperate waving and set the dish down amid the remains of the Frenchman’s first breakfast. We drank more coffee and made up names for Simon (Simple Simon, of course, and Highwater Simon, for his hemline) until–many, many minutes later–we could catch the eye of the one other waiter and explain what we though happened. We placed the order again, provisional on confirmation that it was not still on its way but rather had gone down the gullet of yet another now-disappeared thieving French yachtsman.

The second waiter came back a few minutes later bearing J-P’s order and said, “We came to the conclusion that it was stolen by the French.” Thus outdoing the Finnish waiter we had presented with the cream-sauce spider.

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