Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dining Out Is A Wretched Nightmare

Dining Out Is A Wretched Nightmare
by Rob Cottignies

            Dining out is a grand tradition in many parts of the world, though the first modern restaurant was likely in France. Food unites people and people often unite to eat. In America, there are several restaurants in even the smallest of towns. For example, there is a Lebanese restaurant near my house which has been inexplicably open for a crazy amount of time. There are also Asian places, Italian ris-tor-an-tees, and diners galore. Restaurants are where friends like to go and I often join them, even though…
            …I internally despise every excruciating second of it.
            Here's why:
            First, I have to go to a place. This place may be big, small, specialty, chain, popular, empty, or anything else. Upon entering this place, there is (usually) somebody a few feet from the door, smiling awkwardly. 'Good evening. How many?' HOW MANY WHAT??? I'm immediately furious. This bogus excuse for a question is short for, 'How many people are in your dining party?'
            After answering the host's poor version of an inquiry, I have to be shown to a table because I'm incapable of finding it myself. 'Would you prefer a table or a booth?' IF IT HAS LEGS AND I CAN BALANCE FOOD ON IT, TAKE ME TO IT!!! But obviously I prefer a table every time. Booths are hideous. Oh, I have to get up to pee. Let me be rude as hell and make the people next to me stand up, then slide out while they uncomfortably wait for me, then be ruder as hell upon returning by making them stand up again, then slide back to my original spot. Booths should come with their own toilets, as should sports stadium seating.
            So I'm at the table and am given a menu. The host says, 'Tonight's specials are…' I DON'T CARE!!! IF THESE DISHES ARE SO SPECIAL, THEY'D BE AVAILABLE ALL THE TIME!!! But no, I must sit through a list of meals that I won't order because I'll instantly forget what was said. 'Before you go back to standing by the door, what beers are on tap?' 'I'm not sure. Your server will be with you shortly and can answer that for you.' THEN WHAT'S THE POINT OF YOU??? I FORGOT ALL THE STUPID SPECIALS AND NOW YOU DON'T KNOW SOMETHING I ACTUALLY AM INTERESTED IN??? I HATE YOU!!!
            The servant comes over and he's my new friend. 'Hey guys, my name is Zeke and I'll be taking care of you for the next two hours.' TAKING CARE OF WHAT??? I'M NOT WEARING A DIAPER!!! Maybe I am wearing a diaper but that's my business; certainly not Zeke's. Also, YOUR NAME DOESN'T REMOTELY MATTER TO ME!!! Besides, the servant's name will go directly where today's specials went- right out of my brain. 'Can I start you off with something to drink like a beer or wine? Or maybe you'd like an appetizer like mozzarella sticks or chicken wings?' I KNOW WHAT DRINKS AND APPETIZERS ARE!!! I DON'T NEED EXAMPLES!!! I haven't even looked at the menu yet. Leave me alone.
            But don't leave me alone because obviously I want a drink. 'What beers are on tap?' I ask, again. For some reason, about half the time, the beer I choose has been kicked. Zeke will usually throw me a beer list and stare at me while I decide. Or, I'll have to stare at Zeke while he stutteringly vomits the other beers on tap from his horrid chasm of a mouth.
            Now I've ordered a beer (and whomever I am with probably has too but this is about me) and the servant is gone. I look at the menu and can never decide easily. Too many choices, even at restaurants with limited options. Everything that some guy in the back throws together is probably pretty good. After all, he's a professional. (I'm aware that plenty of places have lady chefs but I'm just making this easier for me. Go fork yourself.) I look at two choices and the servant returns. 'Here are your drinks and some bread.' OBVIOUSLY!!! 'Are you ready to order?' ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! HOW CAN I BE EXPECTED TO DO ANYTHING UNDER THIS KIND OF PRESSURE??? GO AWAY SO I CAN READ MORE!!! However, to avoid this happening again, I'll choose something quickly just to get this wretched menu away from me. I always let the people I'm with order first because I'm a gentleman. At my turn, I randomly pick from the two options I read and chalk it up to a victory.
            Some conversation and sips later and the servant is back. 'How is everything?' EVERYTHING??? HOW IS WHAT??? ALL WE HAVE IS BREAD!!! BBBRRREEEAAADDD!!! 'Your meals will be out shortly.' This is a stupid thing to say. First of all, I know that. Sure, I've waited a long time at some restaurants but generally things move pretty rapidly. Secondly, the meal will come out shortly and the servant will have lived up to its word, which is not impressive but expected. OR it will take a while and I will get enraged. Should that happen, the servant will apologize, which I will accept even though it means nothing. IF YOU REALIZE YOU'VE INCONVENIENCED ME AND ARE TRULY SORRY, MAKE UP FOR IT BY NOT CHARGING ME $2.99 FOR A FREAKIN' SIDE SALAD!!!
            The meals arrive, followed by 'Can I get you anything else?' WHY MUST I ANSWER ALL THESE QUESTIONS??? I'M SUPPOSED TO BE RELAXING WHILE OTHER PEOPLE DO THE WORK!!! If you see something missing from the table, replace it.
            The servant leaves and after two bites…
            'How is everything?'

            The manager. I hate the manager. In these restaurants, I barely have time to gauge anything before everyone wants to know my opinion. WHAT??? I'm with a friend and there's food and beer in front of me- EVERYTHING IS FINE. How bad could it be? If something about the situation is so horrible that I need to say something, I will. Ugh.
            The interruptions don't stop while eating. The servant and/or horrible manager will continue to gawk and pester until every morsel has been consumed. Then what happens? The busboy comes over, looks at my empty plate, and asks, 'Are you finished?'
            So the meal has been consumed, I'm ready to leave, and Zeke is nowhere to be found. On top of me for the entire meal, now missing. I obviously consider just leaving but decide not to. After many minutes, the servant is back, asking 'Would you like anything else?' WHAT ELSE COULD I POSSIBLY WANT??? Bring me the bill.
            He disappears again. Minutes and more minutes later, the bill is in my hand but the servant is gone, again. Minutes and minutes and minutes go by before he comes to pick it up. I like paying in cash to avoid wasting even more minutes but this time is credit card.
            Where is the servant? THIS IS HORRIBLE!!!
            Finally the bill is back, the meal is still over, and I can leave. 'Have a good night', says Zeke. TOO LATE FOR THAT!!! I have to sign the merchant copy and then I can break out of this prison. Wait, what's this dotted line above the signature line…

            Tipping at the end of a meal is its own adorable little nightmare. At most places in Europe and other areas of the world, tipping is truly optional if you think you've received excellent service. In some Asian cultures, tipping is considered rude. 'Oh, look at me, I have so much money so I'll throw some on the table for this little peasant.' That's how they take it and that's exactly what it is.
            Tipping anybody is just awful.
            Here's my argument:
            I order an expensive appetizer, a steak, and two glasses of wine. Say the total is $50. Next time, I order a cheap appetizer, a meatless dinner salad, a beer, and a water. $25. The servant does the exact same amount of work so why should the tip be higher for the steak meal? Makes no sense.
            Regardless, I now have to tip Zeke. How was everything? Good enough. I ate, I drank, and now I'm on my way. 20% is easy to figure out but the service wasn't exceptional. Yet 10% seems weak (because, as stated, I am a gentleman). Even with a calculator, figuring out an in-between percentage is just bananas. What I dislike about many servants is how, upon receiving a small tip, they think I'm a cheap jerk instead of thinking, 'Oh, maybe I am annoying and my service was terrible.' Some restaurants actually print on the bill tipping amounts per percentage. Oh, I don't think so. This is the establishment blatantly saying, 'We don't pay our servants enough so now it's up to you to make up for it.' Disgusting.

            I'm exhausted. Thanks for nothing, Zeke.

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