Please Wait for Me

E ALL HAVE met the following subcategory of waitperson in our dining-out forays. They reliably meet these stringent requirements:

Take your order.
Bring your bill.

"Will there be anything else?" Yes indeed there will. You will kindly go to the kitchen and bring us back a nice platter on which we will place your head. Garnishes of fruit and berries are a lovely decorative addition to any platter, so bring whatever you think your head goes with.

I am not a nouveau riche, I am not a prima donna, I merely wish not to be treated like furniture when I dine out. I pray I am not asking too much to have a water refill while eating and choking on a three-flame entree.

In an effort to prove my absolute impartiality—I am nothing if not impartial—and to understand the mysterious phenomenon of wait-lessness, perhaps we first should attempt to get inside the mind of the absentee waitperson. Then we will get inside the mind of the genius who tips these cheeseballs the same no matter what the service was like. There are two sides to every coin, which I already know being the paragon of impartiality. I just thought it bore reminding my vast readership.

Let's imagine ourselves in the place of one of these minimalist wait-types. Here I am in my little uniform, facing people who are hungry and ready to order. As a clever pre-emptive strategy, I have made them wait an indecently long time before taking said order, so that by the time their food actually arrives they are so hungry they'd eat ponytail soup if it were placed in front of them. But just in case, I was careful to work in one of those establishments that has what we in the business call a "runner"; that is, someone whose job it is to bring the order out to the customer. This is insurance against my having to hear diners drivel on about anything amiss they might notice at the first moments of viewing their food. And, if all else fails and they actually need something during their meal, I have perfected the rapid walk, the blind eye, and the maddening smirk. This tells my hapless customers that I know they're trying to get my attention, but that they may as well be appealing for the natural look from Tammy Faye Bakker.

Some customers are dogged and get their shorts all in a twist as the meal goes on and I am not at their side every blessed minute, checking on how their stupid food tastes—like it matters—and filling their stupid empty water glasses. Don't they know people in other parts of the world are starving and walking ten miles one way to gather water at a stream lined with vicious wildcats and warthogs? Don't these people watch National Geographic?? For heaven's sake, unzip that wallet made from cheapskin and fork up for cable, you big spoiled losers.

So for them, I have to go to plan B, which is: hang out in the kitchen and spit in the food. You never know who's misbehaving out there, and it's my job to be impartial. I am nothing if not impartial. And the timing issue here is more of a challenge than you might think. I haven't taken everyone's order at the same time, you know, so I have to practice evasive maneuvers in a staggered fashion. I'm really quite a strategist, almost on a par with military leaders, something you'll never appreciate, sitting there scarfing your food down like it's your own personal Last Supper.

Finally comes the moment when I have to approach your stupid table and give you the bill. Will there be anything else? I ask. Sometimes I get a real attitude, but it doesn't matter, because the odds are good that I'll get the same tip for having done something as for having spit in food. Also, I usually wait in restaurants that pool tips, so if you stiff me you're stiffing my coworkers. That encourages solidarity among us as we curse at you liberally. I'd rate my job satisfaction as high.

My goodness, that was rather enlightening, wasn't it? Now, let's imagine ourselves as the customer who tips the same whatever the level of service received. Here I am, having just finished my meal. My throat is sore, because I had Szechuan tofu with extra heat, but I haven't had any water for twenty minutes. Gee, I'd really like some water. Oh, here comes the waitperson. Here's my bill. Would there be anything else? Yes, could I please have some water. No? There's no water left? Oh, okay, no water left, that's okay. Well, could I have a box for—oh, no boxes left, okay, no problem. I guess I don't need leftovers, anyway. So, let's see, 20% of $21.35 is . . .

Hmmm, it's kind of an autonomic thing, like your heart beating. Attend to my needs, 20%, ignore me, 20%, spit in my food, 20%.

Therefore, my original goal to coordinate and consolidate our message to waitpersons is in need of a slight realignment, to wit:

All autonomic tippers will be rounded up and enlisted as first-choice contestants for the new Fear Factor special: Tropical Bug Challenge. Yummy. Unless they sign an affidavit swearing never to dine out unless accompanied by someone who's signed an affidavit swearing that they tip strictly according to service. Got that?

Bon appetit.