During my trip (and subsequent imprisonment) in Grapevine last week, I encountered surely one of the world's worst waiters ever. Let's call him "Nelson (because that was his name)." Combative, non-communicative, just plain bad table etiquette. He mistakenly delivered baked beans instead of refried. My wife told me to let him know about it. No thanks. After the fight he put up over his bringing flour instead of corn tortillas, I didn't want things to escalate to violence. Still, he got the last word in. When he swept my plate out from under me (without asking), he dropped the knife in front of me. No apologies and he could've put my eye out!
Now I'm no waiter, never have been one, yet I do have empathy for those plying the fine trade of Waiting. And, as always, I'm here to help. Hence, Stuart's Easy School of Good Waiting for the low, low price of three $39.99 installments . Order now and you'll receive a free doily and a videocassette of Nelson in (in)action. Take notes.
1) Hairnets. If you have hair like the lunch-lady of my nightmares, hairnets are appreciated. Soup served with croutons and curly black hairs is simply not an option. Doesn't taste very good either (though if a customer is daring, he can fish the hair out and use it as floss ).
2) For God's sake, give me time to take a bite! Overzealous behavior doesn't suit the art of Waiting well. Sometimes, before I've even jammed a fork in my mouth, a tip-starved waiter will rush up, ask how everything is. And keep coming back. Again and again. It's a weird time-space conundrum. Can't comment until the food's in me. Just...no.
3) Waiters, please don't chortle at our menu decision. It doesn't exactly instill culinary confidence.
4) And do we really need to know your grandmother just passed away? When the waiter starts crying, my appetite starts dying.
5) When I ask what's good, don't respond with a generic shrug and say, "everything." I don't believe you. On the other hand, when a waiter says, "I eat next door," the honesty is appreciated, but gives me pause.
6) Don't be the invisible waiter, the guy who takes an order and vanishes into the Bermuda Triangle. When a different waiter brings out a milk carton with my waiter's visage on it, I know I'm in for a long wait.
7) Know your customers. Do I REALLY look like a guy who wants to eat the Kale platter?
8) "Oh, I see someone's hungry." Well. When a waiter says that, I fire back, "I see someone's hungry for a tip." Of course then my meal turns into "loogie city" back in the kitchen.
9) If you're gonna' serve up witty patter, make sure it's at least borderline amusing. And don't deliver your patter like a robot. Or an accountant. Bring your material to life. When you bury your face in the order pad, reciting lines like "you say tomat-oh, I say ta-mah-to (and I know you've recited it a kazillion times before)," it makes me wanna' use the steak knife for other purposes. Bad jail-bound purposes.
10) Finally, don't overdo it. When a waiter sits down at my table, wraps an arm around me, jabs a toothpick between his teeth, and says, "You know, I'm not really a waiter...," dessert is definitely off the table.
Gang, the next time you go out to eat, recite these rules upfront to your waiter. Trust me. I'm sure they'll appreciate the advice.