The Incident of the Courgette

Funny things happen in life, and I am always keen to see the humour. This can be a bit unfortunate on occasion, but now that I write, I can at least have an unstifled giggle with hindsight.

Restaurant behaviour

I once had a proper job, a career as a computer programmer and project leader. Despite a requirement to be sensible and grave and never to argue with authority, I couldn’t always manage it. I would open my mouth in the presence of members of the board and giving them unasked for advice, or snort at an unwittingly funny remark, often being berated later by my line manager, Jean, who was very nervous about such things.

How to upset the head waiter

My boss’s boss, Clive, did not possess a sense of humour, especially if his ego was dented. On an occasion where Jean and I arrived at a conference the day before Clive, she booked herself into his allotted hotel room because of an administrative cock-up, and moved him to a hotel down the road. Although he was perfectly amenable to the arrangement when told by telephone, he was less amused on checking in, to find himself walking along a dingy corridor with wall paper half stripped from the walls, into his room, which was in need of decorating. He was further hopping mad, when Jean, who had promised to ring him with the meet-up time for a team meal before the event, failed to do so, instead, falling asleep for the entire evening causing them both to miss dinner.

My boss never lived it down

The setting for the incident I now relate, was a rather posh restaurant in Chester, where the support teams were celebrating Christmas. The decision to go to this particular venue, could be seen as another of Jean’s misjudgments, bearing in mind the inclinations of some members of staff to bawdy behaviour.

Staff Christmas meal

Anyway, we all arrived in our best outfits and sat along a large table. In the middle of one side sat Clive, flanked by Jean, on his right and the manager of another section, on his left.

Embarasing situation

The restaurant was full, and service, as can be the case at Christmas, was slow. We had our starters and eventually, dishes of vegetables began to arrive in the middle of the table, and plates of food were delivered.

Take a man with a big ego and a cooked courgette

Jean decided she wanted another drink, and tried to order one from the Maitre D’, a rather poe-faced man, who, it transpired, took his position and self esteem as seriously as did Clive.

Boss with ego and a zucchini

The man did not hear her request and began to walk away, so Jean, in her wisdom, picked up a slice of courgette from a dish in front of her, and lobbed it at the stiff and besuited back. The figure froze, then turned slowly and picked up the vegetable, glaring at Jean, who squeaked ‘It wasn’t me. It was him.’ and pointed to Clive.

How to wind your boss up

‘Nobody,’ intoned the Head Waiter, advancing on Clive, ‘throws food,’ he came up behind him, ‘in my restaurant.’

Funny Christmas incident

At this point, before our horrified gazes, he pushed the courgette into Clive’s ear and holding his palms over both Clive’s ears and rotated them to knead it in. He marched off leaving a table of exploding IT staff.

Courgette in UK, Zucchini in other parts of the world

Clive went purple, jumped up and marched out, followed by a terrified Jean The rest of us howled with a mixture of hysteria and hilarity.

Jean, Clive and the courgette incident

Everyone got drunk, Jean spent the evening scuttling after Clive, trying to make things right, and by the following Monday, by some miracle, Jean still had her job and the rest of us – even me – desisted from mentioning it again.

Never throw your food in a restaurant

Of course I, and I’m sure the rest of us, still regale dinner parties with the story. And now it is print. Poor old Clive. Wicked old Sue.


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