While on the road in the past month, I’ve been eating out a lot. I love to eat out. I get to taste things we don’t cook at home and, with the advent of “small plates,” I get to sample lots of flavors.

Anyway, recently I was in Vermont visiting Noelle at her newly finished summer home. On the last night we went to a restaurant in nearby Barre. We got excellent service from an older than usual man. Noelle noticed a slight accent that had eluded me. We asked him to repeat a lot of words to see if we could pinpoint where he was from. He patiently agreed. We were inaccurate on all our guesses. Turns out he had a combination of New Jersey and eastern Massachusetts accents.

After he left our table, we tried to guess his name. Again, we were off. All the ensuing conversation lead to Noelle interviewing him about his work experience, his family, and his career moves. We also shared with him that wait people get more tips if they discreetly touch their customers. Lou already knew this and mentioned that I had touched him on the wrist first so HE owed ME money!

We left the restaurant feeling that we had shared more than just food and ambience. We now had a new acquaintance and a more personal relationship with a person that made the whole experience better.personalized-service-restant-waiter

On the way back to Ohio, I picked up Margy in Deerfield Massachusetts and we drove on to New York. We stopped for the night in a motel and walked to dinner. Tracey was our wait person that evening and we started a conversation about beer. Turns out she had won a trip to Colorado for selling the most Sam Adams beer in the region! During that interview Margy and I found out she was a former high school teacher. She didn’t know about the touching and tips connection and thanked us on the way out the door for the information.

Both of these wait people were older, mature, and intelligent. It really showed. They were prompt, helpful, friendly without being intrusive, and had great people skills. They wrote down our orders instead of trying to memorize them and getting it screwed up or asking us to repeat.

I’ve had the range of experiences in restaurants with people. One spilled gravy over a new hat in a bag. I didn’t discover it until I got home. Dave and I were at a place where the entire table got served and were eating and he was still waiting. Turned out they messed up his order and started again without telling us. I’ve had lots of experiences with mixed up orders, waiting overlong for someone to bring condiments or utensils, and even rudeness.

Waiting tables is a hard job. I’ve heard the more upscale the place, the more demanding the job and the more impatient the customer. Fortunately, upscale places have competent people who usually get big tips.

Have you ever waited tables? What is your experience? Would you ever try it? My feet and hips ache just thinking about all that time standing. I’d pity my customers because I am so clumsy and forgetful. All of my tips would go to paying for the dishes I’d break.

Perhaps cutting these folks more slack and being  more conscience of “walking in their shoes” will make me more patient.