So here's the situation. We reserve a table online at one of those too-expensive restaurants for a "nice dinner" with friends. Our reservation is for 6:15. We arrive on time and surrender the car keys to the valet. At the reception desk, we announce our arrival to an overly svelte young woman--see, I'm already making judgments!--who tells us that we can't be seated until our friends arrive. "You're at table 6," she tells us. I ask, calmly enough, I think, if we might take our seats, given that our table is already assigned. Also, at this early hour, the restaurant is far from crowded. She tells me, no, no one is seated until the "party" is complete.
Which sends me into a fit of minor pique at the absurdity of making us stand around , cluttering up he reception area as we await the arrival of our friends, when the table is sitting there empty, along with rows of other empty tables. There comes a point where "policy" is pointless. And it seems to me that people who are about to pony up an absurd amount of money for their dinner deserve a certain amount of simple consideration and respect.
So I fume. Ellie chides me for my un-Buddhist behavior. Which has the opposite of her intended effect. More anger. Some part of me is Buddhist enough to watch the anger happening--but seemingly not enough to prevent either its arrival or its persistence. And Buddhist enough to recognize the ego stepping up with its demand for recognition.
It's a petty thing, of course, but it's precisely the pettiest of things that get to me. Our friends arrive, we do get seated--and at a pleasant table, somewhat removed from the familiar racket of a big city restaurant. We're even able to enjoy a conversation! The anger passes rapidly and we enjoy our meal.
What's to learn from this? Than Geoff has told us often that a Buddhist does not have to submit to being a doormat, and there was something of the doormat in this experience. Still, the anger hurt no one but myself--though only momentarily. No matter that I think it "justified" by the circumstance, it got me nowhere. Lesson one: I can expect this kind of thing if I go to "trendy" restaurants, where patrons are expected to conform to the norm and fit in with the herd. Lesson two: equanimity serves me better than surrender to the instinctive reaction. Lesson three: go back, in meditation, to give serious thought to my old reactive pattern of impatience. And lesson four: when eating out, avoid the extravagant and the pretentious at all costs!