Better Or Worse?

No cooking tonight. We’re celebrating. Tonight we will be dining out at a really nice restaurant. We’ll be looked after, well fed, and have every whim catered to. Unrealistic expectations? Dining out can be a dream or a nightmare. We like to think that the kitchen will come through for us – but it is usually the restaurant’s front of the house ambassadors, the wait-staff, who can make or break our evening. Sometimes the playwright in the sky has decided to have a laugh at our expense, and other times, he wants to be our new best friend.

Worse: It’s a cold winter’s night, and the hostess at the entrance of the really nice restaurant asks, “can I take your coat?” “Yes, please,” I respond as I turn and shrug my coat from my shoulders to help her receive it. As I turn to check that she is there, it falls straight to the floor. We all stare at it. I pick it up. She says, “You should hand it to me, it’s not my job to help it off your shoulders.”

Better: The server notices my friend is left-handed. He quietly changes the place setting without interrupting our conversation, rearranging glasses and cutlery. Certainly over and above any expectations even in one of our top ten restaurants. Almost two years later, same friend and I are dining at another restaurant, another side of the city, served by same server who now has a new job. “Excuse me,” he says, “I remember that you are left handed,” and he rearranges the table setting so that my friend has his best comfort level.

Worse: the bill is requested and brought, credit card offered, and appropriate numbers punched into the Visa machine. Our server comes roaring back, furious at a 15% tip which he deems too meager for his attentions. While it is my credit card and I am the hostess at the table, he addresses my male guest, hoping to wheedle him into coming up with more tip money. I interject, reminding him that the bill is my responsibility. “I don’t want to make you feel inferior,” he says, and goes on to berate me about the tip and his expectations. I can only laugh in amazement at his ridiculous comments and overt rudeness.

Better: It’s patio season, and Sunday Brunch we hit the decks, patios and terraces of the city. It’s a favorite time to enjoy dining al fresco. Though it is a rather breezy morning, the sun is warm on the terrace. I’ve asked the server for a pepper mill for my sunny-side-ups, and as I grind the mill and powdered pepper drifts to my eggs, he quickly holds up a napkin between me and the shower of pepper. “I do not want the pepper to blow up to your face,” he explains.

Worse: the wine server fills my water glass with Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, there is still lots of water in the glass. “Oh f—,” he mutters, “sorry about that,” as he takes the glass away.

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