Commentary

Lunch Experience Sticks in My Craw

By HELEN FADINI | Mar 21, 2018

Meeting friends for lunch, I arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early. A couple having a quiet conversation sat at a corner table in the empty dining room. When the hostess looked up from the newspaper she was reading, I asked to be seated. Explaining I was expecting three others, she grabbed four menus and marched to a table practically on top of the quiet couple.

I saw where she was heading and told her I would prefer sitting on the other side of the room. She stopped, shrugged and said, “Suit yourself,” which I took to mean “You’re on your own.” She slapped the menus down on the table and strutted back to her station at the door while I settled in.

I’m sure this is not the first time I, or any other diner for that matter, have walked into a restaurant to find everybody shoved in the same area. Why not hang police warning tape around the empty half of the room or, better yet, barbed wire? That would keep us out.    

Don’t think for a minute that I have a bone to pick with wait staff. I know they work long shifts and spend most of that time on their feet lugging heavy trays of food. They are often treated badly by demanding diners and bosses. It’s not an easy job, but over the years I’ve wondered, just wondered, why they all do the same things. Why do they shove us together like cattle in a stable on one side of the room when the other side is empty? 

Is there a manual of rules for wait staff that offers techniques to make their day endurable? For instance: Chapter 1, quietly slip out of the diner’s sight, maybe behind a potted plant, and wait until the diner’s mouth is full, then hurry over and ask if everything is all right. The only response the diner can make is to keep chewing and shake their head in the affirmative so the staffer will go away. It’s a win-win. No complaints from anybody.

Have you ever wondered why the meal starts with a blazing hot soup that destroys your taste buds and ends with a cappuccino that feels like it was cooked in a volcano?  

I wonder why today’s special, a skirt steak described as tender and succulent, is served with a knife that looks like a machete. Tarzan could chop his way through the Amazon jungle with that knife.   

How often have you gotten seated when the staffer pops up and asks if you’re ready to order? To say we’ll need a few more minutes is a cue for the staffer to pull a disappearing act or pretend you’re invisible. If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest you try waving a napkin over your head. This gets their attention every time.

Then we have the universal phrase: “You guys still workin’ on that?” I find that doubly annoying. First of all, we are not guys, if they haven’t noticed, but workin’ on that? Really? It sounds like we are a pride of lionesses feasting on our latest kill, like something you might see on Animal Planet: eyes glazed over, gnawing on today’s lunch special, very rare buffalo hide.  

At this particular luncheon we finished our salads and iced teas only to wait over 20 minutes for the check. Agreeing that even retirees have things to do, we went to the bar to settle the bill. After watching much activity coming and going to and from the kitchen, we were informed by the owner that our waitress slipped on the butter and they were tending to her. They told us to forget the check; lunch was on the house.

We quickly grabbed our things and left, sending thanks and get well wishes to our staffer but regretting that we hadn’t forgotten our diets for once and ordered the prime rib and martinis.

Helen Fadini lives in Washington Township, N.J., and Beach Haven.            

      

 

 

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