Subject: Re: The Connoisseur

Date: Thursday, November 20, 2003 9:55 AM


When I worked at the food machine company we had a field service engineer that I worked with on several projects.  When I first came to that company, I noticed that people kind of avoided Paul, but at first I couldn't figure out why.  He was a nice enough guy, reasonably intelligent, though a bit too Republican for my taste.  Still, we had some interesting political discussions.  But this Paul had one fatal personality flaw that I was soon to learn about in excruciating detail.  Perhaps you have known a person like this -- one who displays his good taste by sending food back at the restaurant for the slightest problem.  With this guy it was EVERY TIME he went into a restaurant.  He would find something not to his liking and send the food back.  This was his way of demonstrating his superior palate and refined taste.  Soon it became apparent why no one wanted to eat with this guy.  Once we were working at a plant in Massachusetts and there was a female project engineer that I had been bugging for a date since almost the first day, but our schedules were both pretty full and we could not seem to find time off at the same time.  So one day Paul came in and announced that he had 'everything set up' and we would take this girl out to lunch on the company expense account that very afternoon.   Now, did we go to the nice quiet bar right down the street from the plant (which incidentally had the biggest shrimp I have ever seen in a shrimp cocktail) ?   No of course not, we had to go all the way across town to some fancy Italian place.  All the way there Paul and the girl argued about whether the place had moved a couple of years ago (remember, she was from around there).  So when we got there the place was no where to be found. "Well, ok lets go to where YOU think it is...," and of course it was right there.  So we went in and got a seat.  Immediately it was apparent that this was not the place to grab a quick lunch.  They had linen table cloths, real silver silverware, servers wearing these little tuxedo type uniforms.  So as soon as we were seated, they brought us some bread and water and such to keep us occupied while we studied the menu.  The Connoisseur took one bite of the bread and was displeased.  He called across the room to the server (who was taking someone else's order at the moment). "Excuse me,  Excuse me, could we get some FRESH bread here ?" ... "That is the fresh bread sir, we get it delivered every morning."  "Well, this isn't today's bread, look at how hard it is."   "I'm sorry sir, but that is the only bread we have. "  "Well, can't you just take a look around in the kitchen and see if you don't have some a little fresher. "... "I'm sorry SIR, but that is the only bread we have, if it is not to your liking, I can take it away."  At which point I reached out and snagged the bread basket, saying, " I think I can probably stand to eat this bread, thanks."  Then it was just one thing after another, all through the meal, but at least he didn't try to send anything else back, only grumbled about how the place sure had gone downhill, this or that little thing was wrong with the food, etc.  By the time we made it back to the plant we had been gone almost 2 hours.


This guy was funny in other ways too.  He loved to cheat on his expense account.  That company paid us a generous daily meal allowance, but we had to have receipts to back up our claims (some of the guys had purchased receipt books from the business supply store and would make their own meal receipts).  The Connoisseur would drive to the far side of the next town in a blinding blizzard just to find a tobacco store that would sell him expensive cigars and give a receipt that marked them as 'food'.  I've seen him do it many times.  But, you know he actually was a bit of a connoisseur. Once we had ordered a fairly obscure and not inexpensive bottle of wine with dinner.  When the wine steward brought out the bottle, Paul took one sip and asked to see the label, "This can't be the Merlot we ordered."  Sure enough they had been out of the kind we ordered and they thought to trick us with a substitution (which in truth was a perfectly adequate wine itself).  The lady who did the bookkeeping was constantly battling Paul over his expense accounts. Once I came home earlier from a trip to England where Paul had been charging these Cuban cigars at the hotel desk each evening (usually anything we charged to the room was assumed to be ok for expense purposes and no extra receipts were required).  He assumed that they were just added to his bill in some unidentified way, so it would just appear he was having a lot of laundry done or something.  So anyway, I met up with Laura in the hall and she was grinning ear to ear, "I've got Paul now ! He has been charging these $20 cigars at the hotel desk and they are itemizing them on the bill -- he'll have to reimburse me for every one of those suckers.  I'll bet they wouldn't taste nearly as good if he knew he was paying for every puff." (She had been out to dinner with him once and had a very unpleasant time.) 


So one time we were in a college town bar in upstate Michigan and Paul started in on his trip.  Wanted to know how the beef in the beef fajitas was cooked. "Now, I want my fajita meat cooked medium."  And sure enough, when the fajitas came out the meat was not cooked to his liking. (Who ever heard of ordering thin sliced beef cooked to order anyway ?)  So he sent them back.  At this point one of the other guys leaned over and said, joking, "You know Paul in these little towns if you send the food back like that they might just spit on your food ."  He was up like a shot and off to the kitchen.  Wanted to watch his food being prepared.  "Now I don't want to see you putting any foreign objects in my food."  I made it a point to not return to that restaurant for the remainder of the trip.  In fact, I pretty much got out of the habit of going anywhere to eat with the Connoisseur.