Visiting a Restaurant

Some one recently complained that the waiter in a hotel dipped all his five fingers in to the glass while fetching drinking water; this brought out the indignant repudiation from the manager, ‘How could he have had all the five fingers in ? It must have been only four. Otherwise he could not have carried the glass’.

This seems to me typical of the utter divergence in outlook between two sections of present day population: those who run hotels and those who visit them. Probably in order to improve the situation, a questionnaire was sent out sometime ago, intended to catch all aspects of the problem.

I believe when the investigators attemepted to elicit facts all they got were complaints from the hotel staff regarding the work and wages, complaints form hotel-goers regarding quality, quantity, cost and everything. I think the committee gathered a voluminous quantity of paper, properly filled up.

It is probably too early even to say what they will do with it.

Most people are miles away from  thier homes at lunch time. This is a characteristic of present day urban life. Students, office-goers, businessman, have no choice in this matter. It would be unthinkable for a man from Kharadi, Pune working in the Hinjewadi IT Park to return home for his afternoon lunch; nor can he wait till his closing of his office.

At office waiting for the lunch break is one of the pleasantest states of existence.When one returns to one’s desk an hour later chewing a paan/ after having smoked depending on who the ‘one’ is, one has definitely acquired a pleasanter outlook.

Now, I would like to examine what has happened to the man between leaving his office desk and returning to it an hour later.No doubt when he returns our friend is looking the picture of satisfaction, but he has been through a trial.

He goes to his favorite hotel as fast as his feet can take him, but he cannot enter it. He has to wait, then push his way through a file of others moving in ,and finally stand in a corner scanning the hall for a vacant seat.

It is most awkward standing there, he has a feeling as if he is waiting in the ration shop line. His trained eyes catches someone at a table finishing the last ounce of food in his plate, and our friends assume that the other will presently get up.

He cleverly slips through the crowd and approaches the about-to-be-vacated chair cautiously: he does not like to appear too inquisitive about the other man’s movement lest it should look ungracious but hovers about the back of the chair with a look of unconcern while the man is enjoying his last bits.

If  the man at the table knows that his seat is wanted he will try to brave it for a while but will ultimately vacate it, unable to bear the silent, implacable pressure exerted by the one waiting behind him.

If our friend is lucky-that is, if someone else nimble footed does not descend on the seat like a bolt from the blue-he can feel certain that he has won his seat. I don’t think any election candidate could reflect with greater gratification on this triumph.

When our friend gets his hard-won seat, what happens ? He looks at the time. Half-an hour wasted in man-oeuvres alone. The sands of time are running low, he will have to go back soon at his office. He desperately tries to draw attention of the waiter as he catches glimpses of him here and there. And when he does that, he says” Phew! God, finally caught his eye’.

When  the waiter comes, his demeanor or bearing may be courteous or rude depending on how his day has been so far ; but it is safe to assume that he is extremely harassed and fatigued. If he had his way he would knock down all plates and spoons and declare the customers as the greatest irritants in life… But he asks formally, “What do you want, sir?”

And then the counter-question,”What do you have?”

It is a routine question that hundred others have already asked although the whole menu – including the “Today’s Special” is chalked up on the board.

The waiter mechanically repeats the catalogue of edibles at lightning speed, takes his order, and goes out of sight.

As the waiter comes with the soup that our friend has ordered, he notices a fly in a soup. Being the Pure Vegetarian that he is,  he is disgusted at the prospect of eating a clearly Non-vegetarian soup. He summons the waiter and demands an explanation.

Now, the responses he could get may be as varied as the menu in the hotel.

For example here’s what a not so courteous waiter would say









A more diplomatic waiter would say








Our friend is now furious and there follows a heated exchange of not so good words.But being a restaurant visiting veteran, our friend knows how the waiter could react to his audacity










And finally the hotel staff may use the power of ‘many’. They may gather around our friend and try and intimidate him as formally as posssible.









As our friend somehow tries to win this battle, he notices that his table is littered with used plates and remnants left by other people, and as he eyes them distastefully, a tremendous cry rings out, ‘Table Clean!’, and a man arrives with a bucket overflowing with unwashed used crockery and vessels, reaches over the shoulder of our friend, leaving him in acute suspense for the safety of his clothes, and clears the table.

He then rubs the table surface with a very damp soiled cloth, which our friend would rather avoid looking at. There are a few other things which he attempts to ignore while he is in the process of appeasing his hunger.

He tries not to look at the wash-basin right across his table which sprays around a vast quantity of water as person after person comes up to wash his hands, some of them none-too-gently. The general noise in the hotel is something that frays his nerves- the radio ( somehow the restaurants seem to have stations to tune in to all the 24 hours), the defeaning clatter of vessels dumped out for cleaning, somebody shouting orders to the kitchen, shouting across the bill amount, customers talking to each other…through all this babble our friend can hardly make himself heard.

He ignores the crack in the plate which bears his food, and grease on the spoon given to him. He thinks these are minor terrors which ought to borne patiently.

When he carries his bill to the payment counter and the man there sticks it on a miniature harpoon on his table while sweeping the cash in, our friend is happy that he is out of all this trouble.

Perhaps that’s why he wears such a merry look coming out of the restaurant.


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