Prof. Sebastian DeWitt: When you were a student in the department, I could never picture you as a waitress.
Diane Chambers: Oh Professor, you’re forgetting I played a waitress in your production of "Bus Stop".
Prof. Sebastian DeWitt: Yes, I know.
—Cheers, “Homicidal Ham” (10/27/83)
The last several days, Wife and I spent more time than usual eating in places other than home.
I’m sure this happens to every household from time to time. Every now and then your schedule catches up with you or something, and all of a sudden you realize that the last four meals you’ve had spent some amount of time under a heat lamp. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often with us. However, on Friday we were kind of bushed and, despite the horrific rain, we decided to go out for dinner.
We went to Glory Days Grill in Towson, a place I didn’t even know existed until we stumbled upon it one fine evening about two years ago. It’s a typical bar-and-grill-type place, with numerous TV screens all over the place, nearly all of them tuned to a sporting event. The restaurant, like many others of its type, has a lot of hard surfaces, so it’s consequently pretty loud all the time, even when it’s not especially busy; otherwise we’d eat there more often. Presumably because of the monsoon, we were seated right away.
The waitress came up to our table pretty quickly and took our drink orders: vodka martini with a lemon twist for me, fuzzy navel for Wife. “OK, I’ll put those right in and come back for your food order,” she said.
Several minutes later she came back: she’d forgotten what our drink orders were. She got them again and disappeared.
When she arrived with the drinks, she took our meal orders. We ordered one appetizer to share and two entrées. Given the previous exchange, we should have been nervous that she wasn’t writing our order down, but we were so young and naïve then. Our drinks weren’t especially good, but that’s probably not her fault. After a reasonable interlude, our food arrived.
I know what you’re probably thinking: the appetizer arrived afterward, or she suddenly remembered it and offered to bring it. Nope, and nope. It was completely erased from her head. My guess is that her head passed too close to a strong magnet. In addition, her subsequent visits to her table were more like drive-bys: “How’s everything going that’s great…” She was an awesome example of the Doppler effect at work.
When we were finished, she came by and offered to clear the plates, then asked us if we wanted any dessert. We declined, and she took the plates away. Again, it was several minutes before she came back: “Would you like the check, now?” Uh, yeah.
Let me pause a moment to note that I’m not a bad tipper—18-20% is my norm, and I’ve been known to go higher for extraordinary service. (Also for breakfast. Always overtip breakfast servers, that’s my rule. I don’t know where I first picked that up, but it WASN’T “Life’s Little Instruction Book, which seems to be the #1 Google hit for that sort of thing.) I realize that these people ordinarily work pretty hard for the money. So when I leave a bad tip, I’m sending a genuine message. Here’s another rule I have: if you leave no tip at all, they can always rationalize it as my forgetting somehow, or maybe I’m like that guy in Reservoir Dogs. So, for me, bad service = bad tip. In retrospect, I’m not sure it was bad enough, if that makes sense; I left 10%.
On our way out, I asked to speak to the manager. I made a point of telling him that we waited till everything was over because we weren’t trying to scam a free dessert or anything; we just felt it was important for him to know what had happened. We also noted that all of our other visits (maybe four times/year) had gone very well; this was definitely an anomaly for us. He thanked us for talking to him and asked us to wait a minute. When he returned, he had a couple of gift certificates in his hands. Our next meal would be nearly free. So, good on him. He didn’t have to do anything at all, and we didn’t really expect anything other than acknowledgement at that point.
The next day I decided to surprise Wife with a day trip to the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area. We spent some time at Kitchen Kettle Village (as fine a place as any for Kettle Corn and Shoo-Fly Pie), and spent some time at the outlets (naturally). Oh, here’s a handy tip: if you see any Amish people, it’s considered bad form to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. That’s not their gig.
On the way home we popped into the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in York, PA. There was a short wait for our tables, but what the heck: it’s Saturday night. Once we were seated, we had a waitress who was the polar opposite of the one we’d had the night before: attentive, friendly without being overly chatty, helpful with suggestions. At one point I’d asked someone (not the waitress, someone else passing by) for a new fork because the tines on the one I’d been given were bent and I was getting all compulsive about it, and she was back in a heartbeat with new silverware and lots of apologies. Consequently the meal was enjoyable, the experience was great and, even if our visits to that area aren’t frequent, they’ll likely be seeing us again. And, of course, I tipped well: the two meals were less than two dollars apart pre-tip but when the dust settled, I’d probably tipped five dollars more at Texas than I had at Glory Days.
Do you have any stories of great (or not-so-great) ser
vice? Share in the comments section!