I went to Princeton today for a little powwow lunch with an advisor who I’ve known for a long, long time. She’s a bit older than me and consequently has pretty much “seen it all” when it comes to investments, value, and worth. She knows I’m now in the commercial real estate investment business and while her practice doesn’t include much of this, she was willing to hear me out.
While going to Princeton from my suburban Philadelphia home barely qualifies as “female corporate travel,” something happened at this lunch that happens a lot when women travel, that is, when they travel together: we were treated oddly (as in poorly) at the restaurant. We went to this number we’d been to before, not because we like it very much, but because you can sit outside and the food is decent. It’s one of those places that doesn’t give you butter and you have to ask for salt.
When we arrive, we are greeted with, “Good afternoon, Ladies.” Okay, whatever, I guess it’s sorta normal. But then we must have heard the word “Ladies” five times before we were even in our seats. “Do you have a reservation, Ladies?” (Huh? The place is virtually empty.) “Will you be inside or outside, Ladies?” “Have you been shopping, Ladies?” (We have no bags on us, so that’s an odd one. Do they teach you to say that?) And finally, “Right this way, Ladies,” whereupon he takes us to the far end of the terrace, passing numerous empty four-tops and suggesting we sit in this dark, out of the sunlight two-top, that looks as if it were meant for some passing trolls who wandered in from troll-land.
This reminded me of many a meal in female corporate travel world where the two women are asked to sit at a two top because who knows – some fine foursome may stroll in any minute. Once on a trip my female travel partner and I went to eat and were showed a two-top; we asked if we could sit at a booth instead and were promptly told that they reserved booths for parties of four. We capitulated and sat in our assigned seats. Not ten minutes later two businessmen (meaning men wearing suits and ties and cuff links and pinky rings and hankies) walk in and the maitre de actually says while leading them to the booth, “Why don’t you sit here – that way you can spread out.”
Today’s lunch obviously wasn’t as bad as that, but it wasn’t great. Where the maitre de just moments before called us “Ladies,” the waiter now proceeded to call us “Girls”. “What will you girls be having today?” He seemed hellbent on having us drink wine, admonishing us that we were “being too good.” At this, we both ordered water, from the tap. He told us his name was “Josh” and my advisor said, “You seem like a Josh.” That’s girl-talk for “You’re an idiot.”
So, now you’re wondering if this is a female dining thing and I guess, yes, I think it is. I work with a lot of men and I have a lot of male customers that I end up dining with. Unless the restaurant is absolutely packed, we will always be seated at a four-top. In fact, I cannot think of a time when having a male companion didn’t net me a larger table. And, guess what else, you can be sure, if we asked for a booth – we’d get one.