First let me say how much I like the oil industry: if it weren’t for the North Sea our family wouldn’t have the relatively comfortable lifestyle we enjoy today – and unless you’re reading this on a computer powered by a bicycle pedalled by three hamsters and a Chihuahua , I think it’s fair to say that our society still needs oil. But as for the alpha-male, macho mentality of many of the men who work there? Well, that’s another story altogether and one which I’ll illustrate with what happened to us in a restaurant last week.
My husband is QHSE manager for a small oil services company in Aberdeen. Oops – pardon my abbreviations: that’s a Quality, Health & Safety and Environmental Systems Manager. Two weeks ago he was successful in getting his company recertified to the industry standard and his MD very kindly told him to take his family on a slap up meal at the company’s expense. So, we booked a table for a mid-week meal at Eat On The Green.
We were one of the first parties to arrive at the restaurant that evening although it soon filled up. Shortly after us four men, just off the golf course judging by their dress, sat down at a table opposite us. They were… loud. And quite obnoxious. Their conversation was a verbal pissing contest, each trying to outdo the other with tales of their working success peppered with put-downs of their colleagues. Pretty soon their conversation was also peppered with expletives.
This is a top restaurant in Aberdeenshire with an award winning chef, wonderful food and attentive waiters. One doesn’t expect to hear language that wouldn’t be out of place in a working-man’s pub. But this is Aberdeen and I know from the stories I hear that expletive-filled aggressive language is the norm in the workplace. The roads are filled with men – and some women – driving motorised penises. Never before have I encountered such aggression on the roads. If you start to overtake the car in front more often than not will accelerate to stop you; very few drivers stick to the limit on the meandering country roads and our road-death toll is the highest in the country. But I digress.
I let the language go for a while, not wanting to make a fuss, but I was getting more and more angry: with them for being so selfish and boorish and with myself for doing nothing about it.
So I did.
“Excuse me,” I said. “EXCUSE ME!” The entire restaurant stopped talking. “Would you mind toning down your language please? I don’t want to sit here and listen to you effing and blinding while I have dinner with my family.” One of the party was shocked into apologising. Another stopped eating, spoon held midway, mouth open, incredulous that a mere woman would have the audacity to confront them.
They stopped for, oh, three minutes? Then it got worse – and louder – than before. I complained to one of the waiters and the owner/chef came out a few minutes later asking them to mind their language. He told them that the restaurant had standards and they could accept it or not, but if they didn’t like it they would have to find somewhere else to eat. They grumbled a lot and drew me daggers.
Then the name calling started.
For the next fifteen minutes I could hear them discussing how fat and unattractive I was. It was like being back at school. Then the owner came back and asked them to leave at the end of that course.
At the end of the evening the restaurant comped us our coffees and gave us a lovely bottle of Merlot to take home with us to apologise, even though it wasn’t their fault. I really couldn’t recommend Eat On The Green more highly.
Some of you might be wondering why my husband did nothing. If another man had complained to them it would have gotten really ugly – they wouldn’t hit a woman, but if another bloke had called them out while they were so drunk and obnoxious, anything could have happened. Also, he was unaware of a lot of what was happening because he was sitting with his back to them. I am forever grateful that I didn’t marry a macho man, a man who feels he has to be the aggressive, alpha-male arse that these men do; a man who doesn’t need to get into a road race to prove his masculinity; a man who is happy with his wife and daughter and has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone else. I adore my husband, but abhor the testosterone-filled culture he has to work in.