!!!Things That REALLY Piss Me Off
(When you care enough to really “care”…or not!)
 Restaurants are very special places because there are so many things that can go wrong there.  It’s almost like God purposely provided restaurant missteps so that I’d have something to bitch about. Sometime during the six days of creation he put things into several groups….you know, like rock, air, trees, water, reptiles and assholes, to mention just a few.  Some of these groups worked well (like the tree and water things) while others not so well (like assholes).  One of the groups that was wrought with potential problems from day one was restaurant operations or, more specifically, restaurant malfunctions, a topic on which I consider myself an expert of sorts.  There are a number of things about most restaurants that can really piss me off, but for the moment I’d like to focus on my number one restaurant peeve, and it’s a doozy that is been experienced daily by virtually all restaurant patrons for the past fifteen or more years.
When I’m in a restaurant there are three words which can set me off like a cat licking a spoiled fish carcass, and those words are, “How was everything?”  BAM!!  There I go!  Anyway, I’ve given some very serious thought to this topic and why it sets me off, but I can’t seem to put my finger (or any other part of my anatomy) on it.  For whatever reason, today there’s a major emphasis on the much overused term that has come to be known as “customer service”.  Back in the good old days the waiter or waitress just unceremoniously dumped your food on the table and then walked away.  If there was a problem, like it was undercooked, overcooked or covered with maggots, you just hunted down your waiter and told him so.  You know….no harm, no foul. 

But today apparently competition is much tougher because restaurants are concerned about on line reviews, and even before you place your order either your waiter, the manager, maître d’ or any stranger who just happens to be walking by your table stops to ask you, “Is everything okay?”  Exactly what the hell is that supposed to mean?  “Is everything okay?  No, everything is not okay.  The stock market just went down like a submarine with an open door, the Middle East is about as screwed up as a hotdog eating contest at a convention of anorexics, and I’ve got the worst case of jock itch in modern history.  Hell, no!  Everything is not alright! 

Oh, wait….I may have overreacted just a tad, but I think I got it now.  By everything, what they really meant was, “Is everything in the restaurant okay” or, even more specifically, “Is everything with my dining experience this evening okay?”  My apologies.  Perhaps I took the question a bit too literally.  So to answer that question, yeah….everything seems to be okay since I first walked in the door and sat down about 43 seconds ago.  Come back in another 49 seconds and maybe I’ll have a different answer!  And then a few minutes after that the waiter stops by your table just barely long enough to deposit a few menus in front of you, and then over his shoulder as he turns to leave he asks, “Is everything okay?”  What I’d like to reply, but I don’t because my wife won’t let me, is, “My hemorrhoids are kicking up to beat the band, and the boil under my arm is draining like an open faucet, but other than that….yeah, things are pretty good.  Thanks for asking.” 
You probably won’t believe this, but there are actually some people who think I’m a bit oversensitive in this area.  (Really?  Can you imagine me being oversensitive?)  The main reason why this pisses me off is that these programmed inquiries are the height of insincerity (at its most sincere level!), and I find it exceedingly difficult to let them pass unchallenged.  However, with a little encouragement from my wife I almost always let it go without a response.  Take note of my use of the word “almost” right before the word “always”, and if you put the two together what you really get is “not all of the time”.

The exception I’m talking about is when I pay the check, either to the waiter at the table or at a cash register near the entrance, and that person asks me the totally unexpected question, “How was everything?”  It’s not just that I’m fed up with people asking the question, what really gets my engine running is when it’s asked with absolutely no eye contact and with about as much concern and sincerity as when the announcer at Wal-Mart announces the specials over the PA system.  “Good evening shoppers.  Today’s specials include $1.50 a bag for all Utz snack products and a two for one special on the purchase of all used Party Time brand condoms.”  Does the announcer really care?  Of course not, nor do the vast majority of those asking if everything was okay really care if it was indeed okay let alone good. 

But beyond that is the even more disturbing premise of the way the question is phrased which sets as the standard for acceptability the extremely difficult to attain standard of “okay”.  I mean, is that what a good restaurant really strives for?  Okay?  I’ve never owned a restaurant, but if I did I think I’d at least go for “reasonably good”, or maybe even “not too bad”, but “okay”?  No, I don’t think so.  So about ten or fifteen years ago I developed a few stock responses which I felt were appropriate in response to the offending question.  These are responses I actually use on a regular basis (Yes, really.  Ask my family or friends!), and not only should you feel free to use them whenever you like, but I’d actually encourage you to do so.  Here they are.
Cashier:   “How was everything?” as he or she takes my check and money while managing never to look in my direction let alone make real eye contact.
Lou:    'Not bad at all.  Just a few cramps and some gas.'
“Just a bit of nausea, but it’ll probably be gone by morning”.
      …or… (my absolute favorite)   
“Man, I can’t remember the last time I saw diarrhea kick in that fast!”
And, yes, I really do use these lines.  While even those who may be totally devoid of any sense of humor should be able to tell that these responses are an attempt at humor and most often not an actual assessment of the meal, the reactions I get are worthy of note.  Sometimes there is virtually no response or reaction.  I guess they figure if they pretend they didn’t hear it, then it was never said.  And that’s usually immediately followed by, “Here’s your change, sir, and have a good evening,” yet another insincere utterance. 

Another common reaction is somewhere between shock and horror where they freeze in place and just look at me as if they can’t believe what they just heard, and they really don’t know what to say in response.  And I can understand that reaction because what are you supposed to say to someone who has just essentially told you that the food served by your employer has made them sick?  But probably the reaction I get most of the time is a good laugh and a big smile along with a response something like, “Oh, now that’s funny,” or, “Oh, I’m definitely using that one!"

To sum it up, my point here is very simple.  If you work in a restaurant and really want me to think that you’re genuinely concerned with the service and quality of the meal I was just served and that you also care that everything was “okay”, then act like you really mean it because if I don’t think you’re sincere in asking the question, you can count on my response being equally insincere.  And quite frankly, when it comes to an insincerity peeing contest against me, you have about as much chance of winning that one as Ted Cruz has of being elected Mr. Congeniality by his fellow Senators!

While we’re talking about restaurants, there’s one more thing I’d like to get off my chest.  I admit that I don’t have a degree in hospitality management.  In fact, the only time I’ve ever been in a  restaurant is to stuff my face, so you  might say that I have absolutely no credentials to offer restaurant management advice but, as you already know, that never stopped me before!  So here’s my question.  Have you ever noticed that your waitress (or waiter) has your table as well as a bunch of other tables spread all over the restaurant, and the tables right next to yours are served by other servers?  I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense to have all of one server’s tables grouped together so that they would spend less time running back and forth between tables.  That’s one I just don’t get, yet I’ve never heard a good explanation as to why they do it the way they do.

And here’s one final restaurant quirk that really pisses me off.  Your server brings the food to the table and then makes like The Great Houdini….poof, and disappears!  And since all this deals directly with the tip I leave, all you waiters and waitresses out there may want to lean in a bit closer.  There is nothing….absolutely nothing….that pisses off a customer more than a server who brings the food to the table and then immediately leaves for a two month safari in central Africa.  But don’t get the wrong idea here.  I’m not pissed off about you going to Africa (Okay, maybe a little jealous, but not pissed off), but I am pissed because you left on your safari without first checking back at my table to see if…..well, you know….if everything was “okay”.  Maybe I needed something else….like catsup or a fork or maybe even a new hip!  And when that happens (by “that” I’m talking about you going to Africa on safari), I figure that since you won’t be back while I’m still having dinner, then I don’t need to leave a tip.  Get my point now?

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