Have It My Way
Recently I had the dispirited experience of settling into a comfy table at one of my favorite local restaurants, only to have the first moment of pinot noir therapy obliterated by the piercing squeals of footloose children. Being the mother of a son who once announced with full lung capacity, immeasurable enthusiasm and precise detail the status of his bathroom achievements to an entire dining room, I understood the unpredictable territory and waited patiently for the parents to corral the runaway rug-rats while I held firmly to my pinot for extra support.
After several minutes of escalating thunder, I turned to give the parents the hopeful glare of a fellow citizen unrelated to their little Benjamin and Brittany and thus immune to all cuteness -- a fellow citizen spending time and money in search of an enjoyable dining experience.
Were the parents concerned about the auditory mayhem inflicted upon the rest of the patrons by their screaming me-me's? I'd say not. They were both oblivious, chatting on their cell phones, simultaneously scoring several points on my Restaurant Pet Peeves list.
I'm sure you have such a list, too. Here are mine, largely unrelated to the food. One of them, unless truly egregious, would not be cause to never return to a dining establishment, but cumulatively they might. Of course, what annoys me at a fine-dining restaurant I might actually expect and take delight in at Big Dave's All-Night Wings and Borscht Bonanza.
Customers. (1) Let's start with those small children. It is not the wait staff's job to keep an eye on them while they use the restaurant as an exercise yard, and diners are not charmed by Jonah and Jason's ability to "make music" with the cutlery and glassware in unison. These are the unlovable misfits of the future. They and their adult companions should be asked to leave. (2) And your cell phone? The best place for it is deep in your pocket with the ringer on "vibrate," a much more stimulating use for it.
Atmosphere. (3) Excessively bright lighting -- I'm not performing surgery. (4) Any restaurant that employs a Close Encounters of the Third Kind-style beeper to alert that your table is ready. I don't mind the vibrating pager (see above). (5) Inappropriate, overloud soundtracks. A few recent Cincinnati moments: Rod Stewart and REO Speedwagon for breakfast (actually not appetizing at anytime); Electronica version of Bee Gees hits at lunch; "Rapper's Delight" and "Baby Got Back" at dinner (in a suburban tablecloth restaurant of course).
Service. Servers, I empathize with what you endure (refer to breech of social contract above), but this is where I whine and dine the loudest. Service managers, raise your standards. (6) Super-caffeinated, hyper-perky servers. Stop it, you're scaring me. (7) Servers who address the table, especially when it's entirely female, with "How you guys doin'?" (8) Over-sharing. Knowing that your "dogs are howling" is an unsavory garnish to my meal. (9) Asking if I would "like to keep my fork" from Course A for Course B. I simply say "no" to see what happens. (10) Being asked, "You still working on that?" This makes me feel like I'm gnawing on a bone in a National Geographic special. (11) Asking if I want my change back on a cash-out. Yes, now I do.
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