June 3rd, 2005

At Your Service

I’m a lazy cuss. Frankly, I’m probably the laziest cuss you’re likely to run across. I don’t like to do stuff, even if I know it’s good for me – even if it’s essential for me, really. Like eating. I really don’t like to eat.

Actually, what I don’t like to do is prepare food for eating. The eating part I guess is okay. I know plenty of people who go through the effort to make themselves meals, and by “meals” I mean actual things that they cook that take more than two steps to make. I’ll never understand it. Sure, I know it’s cheaper to make your own meals and it’s generally healthier for you, but the effort and time required to not only prepare the meal but also to clean up afterwords? No, thank you. For me, opening a plastic pouch and putting its contents in the toaster or the microwave is about all the preparation I’m willing to do. Mixing cereal and milk in the same bowl is about as creative as I get in the food preparation department.

Now, if someone else is willing to prepare meals for me, I’m okay with that. In fact, a peanut butter and honey sandwich tastes much better to me if it’s made by someone other than me. Yes, I’m capable of making one, and yes, I have the necessary ingredients (well, except for bread right now), but it just doesn’t taste as good to me if I make it myself. Heck, I didn’t even know I liked PB&H sandwiches until someone made me one. Since then, I’ve made myself a few, but they just didn’t taste the same, so I gave up on it. This carries over into other meals, too, of course. Pretty much anything that I could make myself tastes better to me if someone else makes it.

This is probably why I like restaurants so much. Fast food, cafeteria-style, full-service – it’s all good. Someone else has made the food and that’s good enough for me. The full-service places are the best though. I sit down and someone brings me whatever I ask for. What a life! When our Founding Fathers fought to free us from the tyranny of British Royals, who’d have thought they were also fighting for us all to feel like little kings when we sit at a restaurant and have things brought to us? Maybe you don’t feel that way at restaurants, but I kind of do.

Of course, the person serving you makes all the difference with the experience. I can feel like a mini-king one time at a restaurant with a great server, and feel like an unimportant freeloader another time at the same restaurant with a lousy server. “Bring me flagons of raspberry lemonade!” can quickly be replaced with “May I have a crust of bread, if it isn’t too much trouble?”

(A side note: just this week, I’ve had water spilled on me by two separate waiters. Tuesday dinner at Olive Garden I got soaked pretty thoroughly. The next day for lunch at Puccini’s Smiling Teeth (another Italian eatery), another waiter tried to soak me and succeeded only in getting a few drops on me. The OG server was nervous as he was new and had a trainer following him. The PST server… well, I’m not sure what her deal was. I think she was sent to give me some sort of warning. Two “spills” at two separate Italian eateries in the space of 18 hours… I don’t like to stereotype, but I think it’s possible there’s some sort of Water Mafia I’ve crossed somehow. “Today it’s your pants. Tomorrow it could be your whole outfit. Do we understand each other?”)

A lousy server doesn’t necessarily guarantee I won’t return, but does make it less likely I’ll come back. A great server will guarantee my return visit. A really great server will guarantee that I’ll come back specifically hoping to have them again.

A few months ago, I went to a local restaurant with my friend Kat for lunch. We had a very nice meal – the special for the day was a fantastic pasta with ham in a cream sauce that is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten my life ever – and the waitress was super nice (and very smiley – always a plus). She kept my glass filled with raspberry tea, and when she brought me a piece of walnut-oatmeal pie that had been heated and I asked if there were any pieces that were cold that I could have instead (yes, I like my pie cold), she very happily brought me another piece. Very nice.

A week later, we went back to the same restaurant. As luck would have it, we got Jackie again. (I made special effort to read her name on my receipt this time.) When she came to our table the first time, which is normally when the drink order is taken, she brought me two glasses of raspberry iced tea. From that point on, I never had less than a full glass of tea. I asked her if they happened to have the special they had last week, because sometimes a special is something restaurants have all the time and just bring focus on occasionally. She said she was sorry, but they didn’t have it. “But!” she said, “Let me go see if the chef will make it for you.” I protested a little, but off she went. She somehow conned him into making it for me, and it was every bit as good as I remembered it. Toward the end of the meal, on one of her many tea-supplying return trips, I asked what pies they happened to have that day. “I was hoping you’d ask!” she said. “I’ve been saving the last piece of walnut-oatmeal pie for you, and it’s in the fridge!” At this point, of course, I’m going to have the pie, even if I’m so full I can barely form words. Jackie got a tip that was roughly half of what my bill was that day. Best. Waitress. Ever.

I’ve been back to that restaurant several times since then, and I always sit in Jackie’s section. Frankly, I don’t really think the food is all that good there. That pasta special is the best thing I’ve ever had there, and they don’t have it that often. I don’t tend to presume that Jackie can get it made for me every time, but I always secretly hope she’ll offer. She’s always treated me nicely, and I’ll admit that I’ve gone there to eat on days that I was feeling a little down because I knew I’d be cheered up having her as a server.

Unfortunately, the last four or five times I’ve gone, she’s not been there. I even specifically went for lunch on my birthday because it would have been a nice addition to my birthday, but she wasn’t there. After the third time she wasn’t there, I asked the server if Jackie still worked there, because I was worried. “Yes, she just went home early because we weren’t busy.”

Dang it.

I’ve considered trying to find out her schedule, but I’m trying to curb my stalker-like activities these days. So for now, it’s hit-or-miss.

That’s just how important good service is, though. I try to remember that when people need my help. There’s a difference between helping someone and “service with an actual, honest-to-goodness, I-really-mean-it smile.” I’m not always a Jackie, but I’ve tried to keep my water spilling to a minimum.

5 Comments on “At Your Service”

  1. Angie says:

    I love a good waiter/waitress. Because of where I work, and the fact that I have to fake most of my enthusias, (Especially lately) I can almost tell when they're not being sincere.

    Also, everytime I have a waiter, I alwasy refer to them by name. I know that I like it when someone says "Thanks Angela" or on the phone "Hi Angela!" when I answer it. So, I feel like I'm returning the favor.

    I like my pie cold, too. But I'm not sure I could eat at Italian restaurants that much.

  2. Kim says:

    First off, I LOVE Italian food. And I like my pie cold. But then again, the only pie I like is chocolate pie, and that is meant to be cold.
    Also, Jackie seems like a really sweet person. Its nice that she would remember what you liked, and went through so much trouble.

  3. hp says:

    I'm a selective Jackie I guess. I'll go out of my way if the person I'm serving seems to appreciate it. Give me hell an dyou get bare minimum. There's reasons, which I won't go into here because I don't wish to shock Mup. haha, mysterious!

  4. d4v34x says:

    The key to a superb PBnH is to buy the best grade honey you can find.

  5. John Clark says:

    When I go to the Olive Garden, if I can't sit where Carlos can serve me, my dining experience is less than perfect. Carlos remembers me, and my wife.

    Carlos makes his car payments from my tips. :)

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