Good tips for the waiter: More beer and less pepper

THE FLIP SIDE

March 16, 1995|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

I read in the paper that restaurants in this country expect to net a record $290 billion in sales this year, of which $280 billion or so will probably originate from my VISA card.

Yes, dining out is a passion for many of us. But if I may pass along a few suggestions to you hard-working waiters and waitresses out there:

* Let's not go overboard on the pre-meal banter, OK? Thankfully, we've come a long way from the days when as soon as the customer was seated, someone in a white shirt and black vest would rush up, flash an eerie Mary-Lou-Retton-on-beta-blockers smile and chirp: "Hi, I'm Suzi and I'll be serving you this evening!"

Yet even though those goofy introductions have largely disappeared, there exists a breezy informality between customer and waiter that can be, well . . . annoying is probably the right word.

At a seafood restaurant last week, the waiter handed us menus and then sighed: "I'm bummed."

When I made the mistake of saying, "Oh, yeah? Why?" he launched into a five-minute soliloquy about how tough it is going to school during the day and waiting on tables at night and how he can't study as much as he should and his grades are slipping and his girlfriend is upset 'cause she never gets to see him and blah, blah, blah.

Gee, that's too bad, pal. I'll have a Heineken and my wife wants a white wine.

* Don't get all huffy if I ask you to repeat the day's specials.

Look, you just threw out two pasta dishes, a chicken dish and a veal dish, with six different vegetable combinations and three soup combos.

I'm not an IBM mainframe. I'm sorry this is ruining your life, but you might have to run that by me again.

Someone please explain the policy on water these days.

Some restaurants don't serve water at all. At others, you take two sips from your water glass and some little guy in a red Eisenhower jacket hustles over with a pitcher to refill it.

Look, forget the water. You want to do me a real favor? Go get me another beer.

* You people are awfully touchy about the fish, aren't you?

Whenever I ask if the fish is fresh, you're always a lit-tle too quick to respond: "Oh, yes, very fresh!"

Look, I'm not with the Board of Health, OK? I just want to make sure the fish hasn't been sitting in your broom closet for the past week.

Those 11 p.m. trips to the emergency room, the antiemetic medicine, the IV hookups of dextrose and saline, I can do without all that.

* What's the big deal with the fresh pepper? You're always coming around with a big grin and a pepper mill the size of a fire hydrant asking: "Fresh pepper? Fresh pepper?"

Look, you want to do me a real favor? Go tell the chef to throw some extra shrimp on that seafood platter I ordered.

* This one has puzzled me for years. How is it that you people always pick the exact moment when I've put a forkful of food in my mouth to ask: "Is everything OK?"

Sure, everything's fine -- at least from a nonmedical point of view. Because in my haste to swallow and answer you, it seems that a piece of meat the size of a 10-penny nail is now lodged in my esophagus.

Which means that before I pass out, I'm going to need someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger to administer the Heimlich maneuver.

* Once the entree arrives, don't get lost, OK? Sometimes you people disappear for so long, I figure you testified against John Gotti and the feds just moved you to that new life in a Phoenix subdivision.

* Let me make this as clear as possible: When I say I don't want dessert, it means -- read my lips here -- I don't want dessert.

No, I don't want to "take a peek" at the dessert cart.

No, I don't want "just a sliver" of your famous cheesecake, even though, I know, I know, it's light as a feather, fresh-baked, etc.

Yes, I'm sure I won't change my mind.

Please. Don't make me whack you over the head with this bread stick.

* Let's say I'm dining with three people I know only casually. Why do you get so bent out of shape when we ask you to divide up

the check?

Hey, we're not asking you to split the atom here. It's just simple arithmetic. He had the pasta primavera, she had the baked ziti, I had the veal and so on. Just figure out what we owe.

If this is too much for you, tell that cheapskate boss of yours to spring for a calculator.

* Whatever happened to lingering over a meal? If I order a second cup of coffee anymore, I get the feeling you people are staring at me and thinking: "That's why I should have gone into retail shoes . . ."

What's that? I'm not being rushed? Why do I feel that way?

Oh, I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with that vacuum cleaner you're running under my feet.

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