Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Restaurant Etiquette

I'm not claiming to be Miss Manners, but having waited tables in New York City for about 6 years in my twenties I think I'm fairly qualified to hold forth on this subject.  It pretty much all boils down to this: don't do anything that would inspire your waiter to hock a loogie into your food.  We all know the basics, like don't be a dick and try to consolidate your requests, but a few of these things slip through the cracks. I'm here to let everyone know about a rampant problem in restaurants today: loitering.

Restaurant loiterers are really the worst people.  As a waiter I would have rather dealt with someone being a dick than someone refusing to get the hell out of the establishment, and that's for one simple reason: money.  Waiters work for tips.  If you're camping out at a table after you've paid your check, you're costing your waiter money because no one else is sitting at that table running up a bill for them to be tipped on.  Obviously, if the restaurant is empty they don't care, but in that case they're probably not making much money anyway.

This past weekend, Vinay and I were out with our friend Hung when we ran afoul of a group of loiterers in the West Village.  We were planning on eating around 9, so naturally we went to the restaurant at 7:30 to put our names down for a table; for all you non-city dwellers out there, yes, that is a normal amount of time to wait for a table on a Saturday night in the West Village.  You are correct, it is ridiculous.  But, hey, we knew what we were getting into...we put our names down and headed out to a bar to kill some time. It's important to note that I had had lunch at approximately 1:30 pm that day, and not eaten since.  Just keep that fact in the back of your mind.

 In any case, the time flew by and we received a text message from the restaurant telling us our table would be ready in approximately 10 minutes.  Off we went, and checked back in at approximately 8:45.  At this point we were told it would be a few more minutes, which we accepted with a shrug and ordered a bottle of wine at the bar.  At this point, everything was smooth sailing.  Cut to 45 minutes later, at which point I had officially been drinking on an empty stomach for two hours, and the entire group is about ready to turn on each other and have a real life version of Alive.  And what was the problem you ask?  Loiterers.

Admittedly, the hostess made a tactical error in telling the three of us that the people we were waiting to get up were sitting directly next to where we were standing, calmly sipping their water a full 20 minutes after they had paid their bill.  I was pissed.  I was minorly pissed for the wait-staff, but I was majorly pissed for myself and my poor neglected stomach.

"Ugh!" I said. "Table of three get UP!"

Now I'll maintain to the day I die that I didn't intend for them to hear what I said.  It was a noisy West Village restaurant, and since their conversation was so riveting that they were willing to inconvenience everyone in their general vicinity by not getting the fuck out, I assumed that they weren't tuned in.  I was wrong.  I calmly went back to speaking to Vinay, while the loiterers asked Hung if we were waiting for their table.

"Well, not your table SPECIFICALLY." Hung lied.
"Whoever said that was obnoxious!" the woman at the table complained.
"Well, it wasn't me." Hung said, and turned back to our conversation.  Meanwhile, I was drunk enough to completely miss this entire exchange.

Another fifteen minutes ticked by, and at this point we had finished our bottle.  I flatly refused to drink anymore until I had eaten since I wanted to enjoy my dinner and not spend it projectile vomiting, so I went over to the hostess and very politely told her that we had been waiting two-and-a-half hours and we're hungry, so those people needed to leave.  And when I say politely, please believe me that I was extremely polite.  She apologized and gave me the "I know, I hate them too, but I can't say it" face, then slid over a few minutes later to ask them if there was anything else she could get them or if they were all done.  They stood up, and the woman left first...making certain to step on Hung's foot and grind her heel into his toes.

Hung is an angry drunk on the best of days...so if you add in an actual reason to be angry you are going to have one pissed-off, 100 pound Vietnamese alley cat on your hands.  Said woman got an immediate body block off of Hung's foot, a quick titty-grab and an extremely insincere apology.  At which point, the following exchange occurred.

Man: "Do you want to get smacked?!"
Hung: "Yes, please, smack me right here in the West Village."
Man: "You want to get smacked??"
Hung: "Be civilized, sir!  Be civilized!"

The loiterers were then escorted out of the restaurant, and we sat down and finally ate.

Three things can be taken from this story.  One, if you're going to be bitchy about waiting for a table, you should to it with Hung around because he's apparently going to be the scape-goat for everything you do.  Two, if you are done with your dinner, GET THE HELL OUT OF THE RESTAURANT. And three, "Be civilized!" should definitely be a go-to argument phrase in some reality show before the year is out, because it's goddamn hilarious, especially when being spouted by a tiny Asian man doing his best sassy black woman impression.

Oh, and don't sit side-saddle.  You know what I'm talking about, the couple who sits a table of four next to each other so they can canoodle and do God knows what else under the table.  Just stop it.  Your waiter and all your fellow patrons hate you.

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