A friend and I booked a table at a restaurant in the expectation of being there for the whole evening but, once we had begun our meal, the waiter told us that we had to vacate the table by 9:30 as the table has been booked by someone else from that time. There was no mention of this in the booking conditions.

How I can best describe or express my frustration in this situation to this server. If I say,

"I understand this is a Friday night, and you must be really busy, but this has caught me off guard: we did not expect to have to leave so early."

Does "catch me off guard" fit in this situation? Is there an alternative?

  • Caught you off guard; Threw you for a loop; You were taken aback, etc. All work fine in the context you have supplied. Note however, these expressions do not imply what you did afterwards. These are for the "Surprise" part.
    – user392935
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 8:59
  • @Stockfish Thank you so much for your comment! But I was wondering if I use this, it would be going too far in this situation. Or on the other hand, do you often use this expression to sometimes over state your feeling in order to capture other party's attention and wants draw more calm, easy, expected atmosphere?
    – Dianne N
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 9:11
  • From a BE perspective, "...but this has thrown me for a loop" is not used and would not be readily understood. To catch off guard is not quite appropriate: it means "to be unprepared [for something]" - it is usually used as an introduction to what it was that caught you off guard. "... but/and this has taken me aback" is far too formal and old-fashioned. In BE, understatement is often used: "... and this has taken me somewhat by surprise" or "... and you may understand my disappointment." or "...and this is not at all what I was led to expect."
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 9:27
  • Thank you for your comment @Greybeard If I may ask further, can I say "It's really out of the blue. and it never happened to me, is there any table out side available?" would the "out of the blue" also work in here?
    – Dianne N
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 9:46
  • @DianneN it would be "this has come out of the blue" but is not exactly what you want - "out of the blue" is usually used for something unforeseeable that is totally unrelated to the present context: "We were discussing politics when, out of the blue, he said "I won £5 million on the lottery yesterday."." or "We were discussing politics when he said "I won £5 million on the lottery yesterday"." I replied, "Well, that came out of the blue! What are you going to do with the money?"
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 16:39

4 Answers 4


I often hear "This comes as a surprise," which has the advantage of being neutral and factual. It allows to express how you feel while not giving to the other party the feeling of an escalation.


If you feel that you have been surprised by information that you should have known about, you could say that you were blindsided by the restaurant.

Merriam-Webster, "Blindside," verb:

1 : to hit unexpectedly from or as if from the blind side // blindside the quarterback

2 : to surprise unpleasantly

Cambridge Dictionary, "Blindside":

to surprise someone, usually with harmful results

In your situation, you could say:

I understand this is a Friday night, and you must be really busy, but I feel a bit blindsided: we did not expect to have to leave so early.


More common responses expressing surprise in these circumstances cut the nonsense about understanding it is Friday night:

Well bugger that! I’ll leave when I’m good and ready and not before!

Where did you dream that one up, Jimmy? You know where you can stuff it!

or, drawing on another question on this list:

Sod that for a game of soldiers!

However, if you are in Bertie Wooster country your response can be more measured:

I say, fellow, that’s a bit steep. They don’t treat one like this at the Ritz.

  • You have really sprung this on us.

spring on [multi-word verb; spring something on someone]:

to surprise (someone) with (something, such as a request or announcement)

  • You should try to prepare them for your decision instead of just springing it on them suddenly.

[Merriam-Webster; adjusted]

  • I hope he's not going to spring any nasty surprises on us at the meeting this morning.

[example from Cambridge Dictionary]

  • I hate to spring this on you at the last moment, but I will need some money to travel on.
  • Please don't spring any other demands on me.

[examples from McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.