Sunday, December 16, 2007


Table manners.

Now there is a boogey man if you ever heard of one.

They are brutally difficult to impart to kids. I wonder what the Queen did to her little bratlets? Then there are the cultural differences. Finally there are the more refined rules.

Once you get past chewing with your mouth closed, or eating with your elbows on the table (we still get armpits on the table from time to time), then there is the arcane and quite arbitrary rules about how to handle the utensils, and this is before you get to which one to use first. *tip* Start at the outside and work your way in. Always. I waitressed banquets for years and it was astonishing the number of people who didn't know that. If you aren't sure and the waitress doesn't look too much like a nasty witch, you can ask him or her too, believe me, they know.

Then there are the finer points.

Like at a dinner party when the person who sits next to you talks intently to someone either across the table or on their other side for the entire meal. R. U. D. E. RUDE!

This happened at the man's dinner the other night. I will grant, it was only for most of the dinner, and my language skills are not all that they could be making me less than an entirely enticing dinner companion, but still. I will also grant that one of the two participants was a Spanish speaker whose Catalan was probably as shaky as mine, so it was hard work for all involved. Manners weren't necessarily meant to be easy though. The woman beside me and the woman directly across from me talked intently and seriously about I know not what for the entire meal in Spanish. Ho hum.

It did mean that I got to talk to the man more, but he was also engaged in the conversation on his other side which was far enough away that I couldn't follow it. I also could hardly talk through the two women to the folks on their far side, so we were left with smiles and nods.

I have a story or three to tell from waitressing too. Some good, some bad. I waitressed one wedding that had 14 courses. We were practically family by the end and they made me sit down and eat dessert with them at the end of the meal.

Then there was another group that came in semi-regularly. They were the under 30 millionaires group. Something like that, and let me tell you, you don't get there based on manners alone. *gee willikers* They need to learn that you get nowhere (except maybe your first million) by making yourself look important by bugging the wait staff, or being obnoxious to them.

A cool group I waitressed was a bunch of businessmen and politicians from one of the G7 summits. I will not go into the various politics of globalisation, that is not the topic of this post, nor any of the other political hot potatoes that go along with it. I am talking table manners here folks. Let me tell you, these men had them. I will also point out that they were all men, or if there was a woman she completely escapes my attention. They were actually a very nice crowd to waitress for; courteous and polite. The only problem we had was that one of the underling brown-nosers wanted us to hand out cigars at the end. These guys wanted to hear the speaker not have us in the way trying to hand them an outdated idea that their doctors had forbidden.

The second most profoundly obnoxious group? Frats. OMG. Those little pimply peach fuzzed first years who thought that we would drop anything (including our pants) to simply know them. I am so sorry, but NOT. Gag puke gag. Rude and self-righteous and disgusting. The millionaires were worse though. And some of their women.

I dropped a ball of ice cream accidentally-on-purpose down the scooped back of one lady's dress. It must have dribbled it's icy sticky fingers everywhere.

You should be extra nice to waitresses at banquets. They don't get tips from individual clients, it's in the bill, so if your really horrid, you never know what will happen.

I was and am too in your face to spit in your food, but beware out there....never tick off the wait staff.


And please, talk to everyone at dinner even if they are freakishly difficult to talk to, like me. Not if they are psychopathic misogynists though, just back slowly away, and get them to tick of the wait staff, really really badly. Heh heh heh.


Anonymous said...

A good post with some good pointers. I worked as a cook for a year in a concession/sports lounge. I sometimes had to go to the concession if someone was doing something. Some people are so rude when they screw up their order, and blame the server. I am very respectful to servers unless they are bad, but there are very few of those around. They are doing a job, they are not beneath anyone, and they are taking care of the food and drink I will be consuming. Funny about the ice cream. I could see the frat guys and millionaires being that way. They just don't recognize they crap the same way as the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

I have the outside-in thing down pat. But the butter plate...I still don't know which one is mine.

However, I think sometimes table manners are a bit made up. I mean, is the world going to fall apart if someone doesn't eat the "proper" way? Some people don't even have food and...ahh...enough ranting about perspective... :-)

I will tell you that I make it a point to be respectful to all waitresses/waiters. They work very hard, get a lot of hassle from too many people/jerks, and don't get paid enough for the effort.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from a horrible dentist session so laughing and giggling eases the discomfort!
Loved the ice-cream incident! Never thought you'd do something like that, hi, hi, hi!!!GM

Beth said...

I was once being totally ignored at one of those mandatory social functions. Everyone else knew everyone else. The head honcho (elder statesman) who was sitting across the table from me finally took note. He gave me a wink and told everyone to switch seats. I spent the rest of the meal having a delightful conversation with him. Now that was an example of great manners - and gallantry!

oreneta said...

Dawn: The icecream was one of the more deeply satisfying moments of my life....

Sirdar: That is what makes table manners so tough, they are arbitrary, but still you are judged by them.

GM: Horrible dentist...*shudder* glad I could give you a giggle, I do occasionally have a little problem with impulse control if I am pushed too far, fortunately I tend to get even rather than violent....

Beth: Don't you just LOVE people like that...he is the reason that we need to learn manners. POINT MADE.

The whole point of good manners is to make sure that everyone around you is glad that they have encountered you that day, rather than regreting it.

Nomad Paints said...

OK you besides being one very very funny firl also have many secrets!!
I did NOT know this about of the things we both did and yet have never discussed...will wonders never cease!

Love the ice cream story too..

Great post!!