Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: Yesterday, I went to a local restaurant to have dinner with a friend. I was dismayed to find a short, black hair on a piece of my chicken. My hair is neither short nor black -- the hair couldn't have come from me. I had eaten enough of the meal before the discovery of the hair to satiate my appetite, so I was not going to ask for them to make me a new plate.

I would have just left the food, paid and departed had the manager not been making rounds, asking the patrons if everything was all right. I informed him quietly of my uninvited guest, but instead of an apology, he claimed not to see anything, insinuated that I insulted his "clean establishment" and whisked the plate away. To his credit, he offered to bring me something new, but I was no longer hungry.

Although he did not charge me for my meal, I was uncomfortable with the way he handled the situation. I did not mean to insult him; I simply wanted to rectify the situation. Did I do the right thing? His response was really aggressive and made me feel like it was my fault that there was a hair in my food. -- A Hairy Situation, Chicago

DEAR A HAIRY SITUATION: You did the right thing. You definitely should have told him, even if he had not come walking around. I wonder if the reason that he reacted the way he did was because someone overheard your comment. Perhaps he was embarrassed. You said you were quiet, but maybe he didn't experience it that way.

Either way, his reaction was inappropriate. He should have been gracious and apologetic.

DEAR HARRIETTE: May I comment on the letter from "I Like to be Lonely" from Armonk, N.Y.? I can sympathize with her (why do I assume it is a girl?) because I lived in Europe for several years and would call back to the United States to talk to my parents and my brother, who lived together. Whoever answered the phone first would immediately call the others to the phone, and I ended up with the feeling that I had wasted my time (and money) in a superficial conversation without spending any "quality time" with any of them.

I would suggest that "Like" call the family together and tell them, frankly, of the feelings she outlined in her letter, then offer to make "dates" with one or two of her siblings at a time to do something together, whether it's a household chore, an errand in town, a shared meal or whatever. If they really care for her, they should be happy to do this. It might provide the bonding experience she is missing. It might even bring her to the point where she has more fun in the larger group. I'm afraid that "splitting the difference" without positive interaction would just lead to resentment on both sides. -- Sensitive, Washington, D.C.

DEAR SENSITIVE: Thank you for sharing your experience. Your message is that personal, intimate interaction beats generalized group engagement. Makes sense!