A seriously jet-lagged Japanese couple was sitting a few tables away from me the other night. Their English skills were close to nil. Their server had a rural Cork accent (think Irish brogue buried under Mississippi marbles-and-honey-in-your-mouth drawl at NYC speed.).

The couple practiced ordering a pint of Guinness a few times before she came over. When the stout came, it was in a pair of plain pint glasses. The couple refused the glasses and asked for Guinness. The server said it was.

The couple pointed to the glasses, then at my Murphy’s glass and another table’s Guinness glasses and said it wasn’t. It took a few long and painful minutes, but the server finally realized the problem and walked the husband over to the bar to show him the tap – and the shelf of clean pint glasses and a dishwasher rack full of dirty Guinness ones. I’m not sure he believed her at first, but then she gave him a taste test and he appeared satisfied.

Or at least resigned.

The rest of their meal was only slightly less problematic. They tried reading the menu into their phone. It didn’t work. They asked the waitress to read it into their phone. Still useless. Then a gentleman at an adjoining table translated things from menu-speak to real words, like meat, fish and potatoes. When he spoke into their phone, it understood and translated for them.

I had a wonderful meal and left before theirs arrived. Don’t know how much they enjoyed the rest of their evening, but I give them a lot of credit for stepping out of their comfort zone to travel sans tour guide and camera – and to bypass the sushi restaurant a few doors away.

I hope they had a wonderful holiday. If nothing else, at least they’ll have some wonderful stories.