“I was on holiday with my then-girlfriend in Prague in the 1990s. One evening, we were having a romantic dinner for two in a restaurant in the old town square. I planned to propose that night. I had splashed out on a rather expensive seafood restaurant after reading some good reviews.
The place was very impressive, with a weird mix of the old and new. The tables and chairs were ornate antiques that you could imagine being rescued from a decaying stately home, but there was also an enormous lobster tank in the middle of the room and several equally gigantic fish tanks around the edges. It was a little like sitting down to dinner with Dr. No.
After taking in the gratuitous splendor of it all, we ordered a bottle of Chianti and started perusing the menu. I could not focus on the words due to the nervous excitement of the evening. In fact, I was mostly concentrating on how to stop my palms from sweating. But, none of that mattered because I had already scouted ahead, reviewed the menu, and made arrangements with the manager to bring out a ‘special’ dessert with the ring hidden at the bottom. It may sound cheesy, but this was the ’90s and it was only slightly unoriginal back then.
Just before returning to take our orders, the waiter ushered two gentlemen to the table next to us. I heard American accents and (no offense, guys) my heart sank a little as I pictured their loud voices echoing throughout our special evening. However, I was, initially, pleasantly surprised as they began to chat in tones hushed enough for any Englishman. It did not last, however. By the time the waiter had finished taking our order, they had gone from a quiet chat to what appeared to be an increasingly tense exchange. The waiter gave them a disapproving scowl as he walked back to the kitchen, but they were far too involved to notice him.
As the debate continued, I did the only thing I could: sighing loudly and clearing my throat in a way that clearly was not mucus-related. Somehow, even this confrontational action went completely unnoticed. There was no way I was going to let this go on throughout the meal. I looked around for the manager. I was fairly sure he would be on my side after our proposal planning discussions. At the very least, he could always move us to another table, far from the madding crowd. That was when everything went wrong.
As the manager walked over, our noisy neighbors’ argument reached its fever pitch. The younger of the two gentlemen said something about being ‘very upset,’ prompting the older guy to go on a little rant. It seemed like a school teacher chastising a troubled pupil. We could see the younger man bubbling with rage as he talked. Suddenly, he swept his arm across the table, smashing glasses and sending food flying.
The whole restaurant froze in gobsmacked silence for a second. Then, out of nowhere, the lobster tank shattered. The noise was deafening, like a bomb going off. Literally, thousands of gallons of water, not to mention the live lobsters, flooded across the restaurant. The sheer force was enough to send the heavy tables and chairs flying across the room into one of the other tanks, which promptly shattered too. By the time the dust had settled, every tank in the place had gone. We were soaking wet and clinging to each other for dear life. The floor was covered in broken glass and stranded fish.
I decided to postpone the proposal until another time.”