“I’m sorry. I’m a right pain in the arse” is usually how I end up starting my introduction when I eat out. The waitress/waiter suddenly landed in a life or death situation, because it is literally like that for me, and all I want to do is have a spot of lunch.
My name, for those that don’t already know me is, Rory Mason, and I have been told that I was once the most allergic person in Leeds.
Now this title was ripped away from me at a tender young age, by some poor girl who had to sleep in some sort of vacuum bubble – just to survive. Compared to her, I have it easy, so don’t have pity on me for losing my crown (even if nobody is interested in the second most allergic person in Leeds).
Anyway, I’m delighted to be blogging for Safer Eating. What are my credentials you may ask? Well, my allergies are as follows:
- Egg and peanut – both of which can cause anaphylaxis (make you swell up and potentially die, for those that don’t know)
- Milk – yes that’s ALL dairy(!) – chocolate, cream, cheese etc, and yes, I’m still allergic to the lactose-free stuff
- Goats milk – who drinks goats milk anyway?
- Sesame seeds
Quite the list I’m sure you would agree… I’m quite proud of it anyway.
I wanted to tell you all of this because I feel like I’m quite an expert when it comes to living with allergies and staying alive. I’m not an actual expert on allergies though – one conversation with Karen taught me that. Wow, she knows stuff about my allergies that I didn’t even really understand… and I consider myself well educated.
However, over the years I’ve had many conversations with waiting staff that have ended up with comments like, “God, I wish all allergic people were like you” and, “You are by far the most allergic, and least problematic allergic person I’ve ever met.”
At first these comments felt great, so I smiled and felt good about myself, thinking little more about it. Yet the more the comments came, the more I became curious… Surely everyone is like me?
I have since discovered from other people that they aren’t. I have been told that people with allergies can often be bolshie, rude and at times, even aggressive. Now this totally confuses me… surely the aim of the game is to stay alive, and not to have someone poison your food because you’ve pissed them off from the start? It’s hard enough with allergy deniers in kitchens (and I’ve had my run ins with those I can assure you, but that’s a story for a different blog) without giving staff the lingering desire to finish you off themselves. Frankly, these staff are not paid enough and sweat hard every day to bring people food.
Rory’s restaurant routine
Whenever I go into a restaurant, I have three main aims:
1) Get the waiting staff on side so they are willing to go the extra mile for me
2) Make sure they are fully aware that this is a life or death situation
3) Make sure they are relaxed and don’t shit themselves ensuring you can eat there
So, I have a routine that I have perfected over the years and it goes something like this…
“I’m going to start by apologising, because I’m a real pain in the arse.” The waiter is instantly interested, or perhaps slightly nervous.
“I have every food allergy under the sun, including egg and peanut, which could kill me” (insert pause for dramatic effect). The waiter/waitress is now terrified.
“But it’s ok, because in the last 30 years, I’ve never died” (cue big reassuring smile). The waiter/waitress is now laughing with me. They are still nervous and alert, but starting to be on my side.
“Now I’ve not eaten here before but I’d really like the X, Y & Z option? I’m not particularly fussed which one as they all sound great, so which one would you recommend is easiest or the best?” The waiter/waitress is now happy and feeling confident that this won’t be as hard as they first thought.
“Once again, I’m sorry for being such a pain as I know you’d have preferred me to go to the restaurant across the street.”
This I find evokes the most amazing responses from waiting staff, who are now on my side and allow me to both fly under the radar, eat a decent meal and not die (the last one being key here).
So, my question to other allergy suffers out there is… if I can play Russian roulette with food every time I eat out but still be nice, why can’t everyone else with allergies do the same? It really does give people with allergies and other dietary requirements a bad name. Restaurant staff deserve the level of kindness and courtesy that we would like to receive ourselves should the roles be reversed.
I mean, surely, we’ve all had that part time job at a bar or restaurant? Surely, we all know what it’s like to be a human being at the very least? I’ll even go one step further – if you are one of those people who is bolshie and rude, please, please, please stop acting like this. You never know, one day you could end up with stomach ache after eating out, and maybe it wasn’t an accident?
By Rory Mason – the second most allergic person in Leeds