Monday 24 July 2017

When being served be kind, be human and be generous!

“Bloomin’ eck, is it just me, or are these desserts taking a long time? I mean, the mains came really quickly, but we’ve been waiting ages for dessert. It’s been yonks!”

It’s always a treat to eat out, and thanks to the gastronomic revolution that’s taken place in Ireland over the last 20 years, you can now find lovely yet not exorbitantly expensive pub food, and end up feeling a little bit special for a couple of hours or so.

However, as we wait for our desserts in this Connemara pub, I allow impatient thoughts to tumble around my brainbox:

‘... isn’t too much to ask, is it? Must’ve been twenty minutes now, since that waiter was here and this wait is spoiling a lovely evening out, and mutter grumble moan groan …’

Finally, slightly irritated that herself appears wonderfully unperturbed, I decide that it’s time to recruit the Snapper onside, to light fires of indignation within her belly.

“I mean, how long does it take to scoop a bit of bloody ice cream?”

The Snapper looks over at me with that marriage cocktail of three parts familiarity and one part contempt.

“But Charlie, we haven’t even ordered dessert yet.”


“The waiter came over and asked if we’d made up our minds. You were lost in a quandary about sticky toffee pudding and pistachio ice cream, so I asked him for a couple more minutes.”

“Really? Oh bugger. How long ago was that?”

For once I’m delighted to be in the wrong, because thankfully I haven’t yet verbally abused an innocent waiter. Something dangerous happens to certain human beings when they are being served.

A little like road rage, they suddenly and irrationally see themselves as the single most important and powerful person on the planet, for whom all must run perfectly.

Having been a barman for years in my youth, and befriended many chefs and waiters, I know all too well what it’s like to serve people like that, and therefore respect and honour good service by smiling, saying thanks, and because I know it’s a vital part of a server’s wages, leaving a chunky tip.

Shame that others don’t do the same.

A despondent city centre waiter friend complained to me years ago that when festival season hits, and Galway's restaurants become busier and busier, people leave tinier and tinier tips.

“It’s like cutting the weakest link in the chain, just so you can pretend to be well off! And now people like me can’t afford to live!”

“I just wouldn’t have the patience any more” I offered, remembering how testing it was serving people in pubs.

“Oh believe me, mate, you so wouldn’t. You’ve got no idea. The other night I seat two tables at once, right? I give menus to both and go to the first table to tell them about the venison special. They say they’re not ready to order, so I say:
‘Fine, take your time!’
and go over to the second table to take their order. Three of them order the venison special, so by the time I’m back at the first table, we’ve run out of it. Of course yer woman orders it, so I tell her that I’m afraid there is no more venison. She says I shouldn’t have told her about it, if it was all gone.”

“She wha’?” exclaimed your colyoomist. “Ooooh, I’d’ve, I’d’ve, ooh, I don’t know what I’d’ve done!”

“And that’s why you’re not a waiter, Charlie. So I explain politely that when I first told her about the special, there were three portions left. Then she asks me who had those portions, so I point to the other table. And then, get this, she says that I should go over there and explain to them that she wants a venison special so they can’t all have it.”

“She WHAT? No way! Don’t believe it!”

“God’s honest truth, mate. So I smile and tell her that no, I simply couldn’t do that, as she’d actually had first choice, yet declined to place her order while there was still venison on the menu.”

“I cannot believe she told you to go and nick the other table’s food! I mean, it’s not exactly complicated stuff, is it! Yes, we have no venison, so tough, love. Stuff a scallop in your gob and be happy.”

“You’d think, mate, but she still hadn’t given up. She asks me if there is any chance of me finding some venison in the kitchen. I tell her again that it’s all gone. And then she turns a bit nasty and sarcy and says that if I should happen to come across some venison that I didn’t know about, I was to tell her and she’d order it. I smile once again and tell her as calmly as I can that that isn’t going to happen, because Chef has a very precise knowledge of exactly what he has and doesn’t have in his kitchen, and there ... is ... no ... venison.”

"Don’t know how you do it mate. I do not. Fair fucks to you and  your comrades.”

I’m removed from the memory of my mate’s tale of venison and woe by a smooth gentle servile voice.

“Would you like to order dessert now, sir?”

How lovely to be asked that question. How lucky am I that professionals employ their superb cooking and serving skills just so that prats like me and that vile venison woman can have food brought to them.

“I would, and thank you! Thank you so very much!” I say to a slightly bemused waiter.

I leave him as big a tip as my pocket will allow, and suggest you all should do the same.

If you can’t afford to tip properly, you can’t afford to eat out.

Think of your server as you stuff your festival faces, and be kind, be human and be generous.

©Charlie Adley

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