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The perfect waiter
May 17, 2008
Dining out is one of the life’s sweetest rewards, especially when the only thing in your refrigerator could provoke a fierce bidding war on E-bay between the CIA’s biological warfare division and waste management specialists.
A critical component of the meal out is the wait staff. Sure, sure, you can rhapsodize about the food, the wine list, the décor, but if your table has inadequate service, those others things mean about as much as another lawsuit does to Michael Jackson.
Since eating out (or geez, just plain eating) is something I try to do often, I have had plenty of opportunity to study this whole question of what constitutes superlative waitperson behavior. As a public service I have taken time from the arduous task of writing a column to imagine the perfect waiter. I can hear you now, begging for the details.
I have a whole list of things that would not be a part of the look for this perfect creature: no suspenders – especially if they are festooned with kitschy buttons. No large hats (but small hats are OK? I think not. Let’s just eliminate the whole costume concept right here unless the restaurant is one of the Disney establishments, in which case the costume will probably be the best part of the meal.) A few rings are OK, maybe, but enough silver to sink the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria is out, as are hand tattoos, severe hangnails, or acne in any stage.
What would do very nicely is a simple pair of black slacks and white shirt – ooh, and maybe one of those white apron things wrapped around the waist, long eyelashes, a Scottish accent – oh wait. Wrong fantasy.
The first perfect act of the perfect waiter (and here I am using the male personification. This is a fantasy.) is to notice me at my table. This should occur within five minutes of being seated. A wait of more than fifteen minutes to contact the mother ship, and I am walking. At the very least, my dream guy can cruise by the table and lie, saying he’ll be with me as soon as he can. Establishing contact, no matter how fleeting, is crucial.
A really good waiter is quite familiar with the menu, so if I ask a question about preparation, his panicked, motionless stare won’t make him look like the elastic in his underwear just quit working. Even better, he might add an interesting (and hopefully, non-pretentious) information nugget about the dish.
The perfect waiter has an effortless graciousness and desire to solve all my dining problems. (Within reason, of course. He won’t be able to do a thing about what we call “onion dreams” at my house - but I’m OK with that.) The most perfect dining experience I ever had was the result of a superb waitperson – a wonderful young lady who, when I said, “May I ask you a question?” cheerfully responded with, “the answer is yes. Now what is your question?”
The perfect waiter would never make me look at an empty soiled plate for twenty minutes, which has all the appeal watching Baywatch reruns. He would notice and whisk away the empty plate the first time he passes by.
He would also notice my wine glass levels, and offer to pour more or get another glass when the level is low. And speaking of wine – he’ll have a pretty good idea of what to recommend with a dish if I seem hesitant, or he’ll offer to check and see what the chef recommends.
Finally, the perfect waiter will make the check appear quickly once I have decided dessert is not in my future. (This decision may take a little time and will occur only after I have heard him describe each sweet offering in loving detail.) He will return promptly with the change and a final flutter of those long eyelashes.
Admit it. Those roller-skating gals at Sonic just can’t compare.