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by Andrea Albanese

Eating Out


Lately, I’ve been observing people in restaurants. It’s a well-known fact (which I just made up) that you can tell the nature of a person by the way he or she behaves around food. There is the patron who orders a cheese sandwich and a glass of water, then asks for refills, ice, rolls, butter, jam… This person usually leaves with a doggie bag and all the NutraSweet packets his pockets will hold. Oh, and he or she also occupies the table for an hour and a half while a line forms out the door. The server, who has been wearing a path in the floor running back and forth to this table, will probably find a fifty cent tip. Another favorite is the patron who finds nothing to his or her liking; the soup is too cold, the service is too slow, the olives are too green…whatever. She sends back at least two dishes which, though prepared well enough, she simply does not fancy after all. Then there is the gourmet who takes half the evening explaining to a waitress (who is paid about $7.00 per hour) that his eggs must be cooked exactly 42 seconds and the toast must be the color of an oak leaf in autumn twenty seconds before it falls from the tree. Let us not forget the person who orders the “daily special” but asks for substitutions of every ingredient. I think everyone’s favorite is the hard-to-ignore family; three ill-behaved children who fight, spit out food, and run interference with dish-carrying table-servers. I have a great idea. The mayor should add abusive restaurant patron removal to services covered by the 311 line. This is the City’s line for situations which do not warrant a 911 call, but present a danger and/or nuisance. Then, business could continue while the offender is quietly removed.
Now for myself, I think I’m a pretty okay restaurant patron. I ask the server to bring me something, “When you get a chance;” I do not return food unless it is clearly unsafe to eat; I did not complain when a waitress dropped a salad in my lap; I usually just remove the inevitable hair, I consider myself a generous tipper, and will always tell the manager about exceptionally good service. In fact, I’m writing this in a restaurant right now. Actually, I guess I’ve been here quite a while…I don’t want to be inconsiderate…I’ll just grab a handful of NutraSweet and be on my way…Well, maybe just one more refill. I just need hot water; I still have the teabag. I had to send the muffin back. (I clearly told the waiter I wanted it cut diagonally.) Now, where are my kids…? “Oh, waiter…”

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