THE DECISION TO HAVE a meal at a restaurant is often made lightly, and it shouldn’t be as there is always the potential for dire results. For example, you could die from food poisoning. Or almost as bad, run into someone you told a month ago that you were moving to China. (Who would do that?) But sometimes dinner out is unavoidable. You may be on a vacation or business trip and thus have no choice. Or you might just be facing a bare cupboard and lack the energy to go shopping for food. Then there are the special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Whatever the reason, the practice of eating out has spread like wildfire. In 2016, statistics showed that Americans spent more at bars and restaurants ($54.857 billion) than they did on groceries ($52.503 billion).
That very fact might account for the lousy experiences we all tolerate. Like this one, for instance, at one of our favorite haunts: We arrived at the half-empty restaurant, were quickly seated, and then were completely ignored for the next fifteen minutes but who’s counting. This fairly common circumstance always makes me crazy, creating the “perfect storm” out of my worst personality flaw (impatience) and my biggest gripe about dining out (poor service). I can deal with bad food since most people can’t cook and besides, cooking for a crowd is tough, so I lower my expectations beforehand, seeking only enough calories to support life.
Still, it’s nice to be noticed when you get there, and treated with a modicum of respect. A scintilla, a shred, a crumb, if you will, of respect would be so nice. And maybe some water, and a menu. And a smile perhaps, from someone. Anyone. And let’s remember, I’m hungry; that doesn’t help matters.
My son, a former waiter, is always quick to point out that all the servers are very busy taking care of other people. That never makes me feel any better; in fact, it makes me feel worse. When do I get to be one of the “other people”? To that end I have been known to crane my neck, raise an eyebrow, and even wave —you heard me —after waiting a ridiculously long time, all actions considered to be outrageously poor form. You’re just supposed to sit there and take it, but still leave a big tip at the end of your meal, if you ever get one.
This is why I hate eating out.
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.