I eat out a lot. Partly because I hate to cook. But even more because I abhor cleaning up. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s not as healthy as eating at home. But it’s fast, fun and makes my life a whole lot easier. But here’s the thing; I apparently missed the memo to all food service professionals regarding clearing away dirty dishes the nano-second they become “inactive.”
It happens everywhere, and it’s driving me batty. The minute you take your last bite, or someone seems to think you’ve taken your last bite, a person emerges out of the shadows and surreptitiously swipes your supper before you can say Wolfgang Puck. It’s particularly problematic if you were saving your orange garnish for a final palette cleanser or hoped to sop up some spaghetti sauce with a piece of leftover sourdough.
I’ve tried to remain silent on this subject and just go with the flow. But, A, I’m mentally incapable of going with the flow. And B, We hit an all time high on the annoyance Richter scale the other night and I just need to talk about it.
My husband and I had a lovely meal at the White Chocolate Grill in our neighborhood. The food was delicious, the waiter attentive and the atmosphere was elegant yet comfortable. All was well. Until we got to the final thirds of our entrees. That’s when the vultures began circling. One black clad server stealthily snagged the remainder of my husband’s rotisserie chicken as she swept by in such a smooth and fluid motion, it was as if she had performed a Houdini sleight-of-hand maneuver. Luckily his reflexes are sharp. He grabbed the plate back and asserted loudly that he was still working on his dinner. After a few stunned moments, we relaxed back into our meals. But as I distractedly raised my water glass to my lips, I noticed the remnants of my Ahi salad had been snatched. I called out to the young thief. But, alas, it was too late. He had disappeared into a sea of ebony outfitted employees. “I guess I’m finished,” I sadly conceded.
Then, as if carefully choreographed, servers approached, lifted and removed each and every plate, glass and utensil that adorned our two-top. My husband had to ask for a new water glass because someone had commandeered his as he carelessly lost sight of it while lamenting the loss of his sugar-snap peas. At one point, he was so irked that he placed a leftover empty salad plate at the edge of the table to tempt one of the passing waiters. But as soon as she eyed it and moved in for the kill, he swept his napkin over it and slid it to safety beneath the table. Then, not finding this at all amusing, she outstretched her hand like a stern school teacher who had discovered the classroom clown hiding a perilous pea-shooter. “I’m going to take it anyway,” she chastised, “so you might as well give it up.”
At this point, I looked around in search of cameras or a grip or gaffer in case we were victims of some new Ashton Kutcher reality show. But, lo and behold, I found none. We finally called over the manager and inquired about this over-the-top team effort to rid our area of dirty dishes. “Full hands in,” he replied professionally, “Full hands out. It keeps us efficient.” It wasn’t hard for us to read between these lines as we eyed the cue of hungry incoming at the hostess stand.
Before he got around to offering us a free bread pudding we didn’t want, we thanked him, laid down our cash and excused ourselves. After all, we know when we’re not wanted.