If there was a professional certification for “lunching,” Linda and I would qualify without even taking the test. This is something we know “hands down.” We have practiced our “craft” for many, many years, and have it down to a science.
I can imagine that when we retired and no longer ate lunch out five days a week, there were surely restaurants in town who wondered why their business had declined. And, servers who probably looked for other lines of work because, when the “funny ladies” stopped coming in, waiting tables just wasn’t as much FUN any more!
If we were at all interested in working in retirement, we probably would be doing the “lunching” world (and the local restaurant industry) a service by hiring ourselves out as “lunching” mentors. The way I see this working is that people (“novice” lunchers interested in bettering themselves in this important area of the working world) would take us out to lunch, and, for a small consulting fee, we would critique and coach them in ways to improve their dining experience!
But since we have now become lunchers “emeritus” and no longer eat lunch out every day, and because, we have NO interest in employment (although the scenario I have described above does sound awfully tempting doesn’t it, Linda?), I will share a few of the tips that we have learned and experiences that we have had over the years with you here.
Many years ago, it was normal for women “lunchers” to not get the same level of service as men, and the main reason was that women were perceived as notoriously poor tippers. Early on, Linda and I made a point of dispelling that myth. We always made sure that we tipped equal to the level of service we received. If we received good service, we tipped well. But, also, if we received bad service that was clearly because of the server (as opposed to problems in the kitchen, for example), we would reflect our dissatisfaction with a lesser tip. In a few extreme cases, we have left something like a 50-cent tip. Leaving NO tip was never an option, because then it might look like we just forgot to tip — perpetuating the “women are lousy tippers” idea.
The second important thing we learned over the years is that “regulars” always get better service. So, while we went to a variety of restaurants, we did the complete “circuit” of those restaurants regularly, so that we were seen as “familiar” in all of them.
And, the third thing I believe we did right was that we tended to have the same server (when possible) or the same SEVERAL servers in each of those restaurants. If a server “knows” you, there is a much better chance that they will CARE that you get good service, because they a) like you, and b) know they’ll probably see you again next week! And, the familiarity with the servers wasn’t one-sided either. WE got to know them, and sometimes things about their families.
One of our favorite servers of all time was Fran. She was a server in the Italian restaurant we liked. She was, in our estimation, the ULTIMATE server — that is, one who was friendly, but efficient at the same time.
Early on in the years she served us there, she found out that we were fellow Christians, so that was one of the things that we shared in common. And, one memorable time, sometime between the salad and the entree, when Fran had come to refill our iced tea, she quickly (because she NEVER let anything get in the way of the great service she provided) set the pitcher down, laid her hand on each of our shoulders and said a quick prayer over us. I don’t remember there being any specific reason for her prayer — I think she was just “moved” to pray for two women who she had come to consider friends! But, when she walked away, Linda and I looked at each other, smiling but a little embarrassed by the attention this probably drew to us from the surrounding diners, and one of us whispered to the other, “The people around us are probably wondering which one of us is terminally ill!”
But that was the Fran we came to know and love — she lived her faith in such a way that she couldn’t have stopped sharing it with others no matter what! It was a sad day for us when she moved out of state with her husband’s job. But, she left us great memories!
The downside of making friends with the servers was that sometimes it DID get in the way of our main goal — eating and getting back to work in a timely fashion! We used to go to the closest location of a local pizza chain for lunch and had a really nice server who always waited on us there. But, unfortunately, she became sooo familiar with us that she would stand at our table and chat so much that we not only had trouble getting our food in a timely manner, but it was hard to eat, because we kept having to chat with her! We hated to do it, but we had to start going to another location, just because we didn’t have the time to spend with this too nice server.
Now, three stories that Linda always reminds me of when we relive our years of eating lunches together. (You’ll notice these “favorite” stories of hers never make HER look bad!)
- One time we were in an Asian restaurant and I ordered the wonderful sweet/sour soup that they served. Well, that day, someone must have inadvertently turned up the burner under the soup pot, because when I took the first bite of the soup that had just been brought to me, it was BOILING hot! What would YOU do if you suddenly found yourself with a mouth-full of boiling liquid?!! You would probably do exactly what I did — I spit it back into the bowl!! The way I remember it is that, because of my quick action, Linda didn’t have to stop eating HER food and rush me to the hospital where, I’m sure, I would have had to have an immediate and complete transplant of the skin on the roof of my mouth! But, if Linda would like to tell HER version of this story, she will have to start writing her OWN blog! Because I am certainly not going to lend credibility HERE to her dismissive attitude toward the CRISIS I found myself in — and her embellishment of HER embarrassment at being in a restaurant with someone who spit her soup back into her bowl! Linda likes to tell people we were banned from that restaurant after this incident. The way I remember it — we just chose not to go there any more.
Lead-in to this next story is that I have a realllly soft spot in my heart for small children and dogs — especially if they are in harms way or already hurt (I had to go out and sit in the car while Linda and the Hubbies finished watching “Eight Below” — the movie about sled dogs that had to be left behind. Tooo intense for me!)
- One day Linda and I were seated by a window in a restaurant we frequented, that looked out over lawn to a street. When we sat down, I noticed a dark something laying in the street that cars were having to go around. But, the street was far enough away, you couldn’t tell what it was. I tried to ignore it, but I kept looking back out there and wondering if it was a dog that had been hit by a car and was suffering. I finally told Linda I thought we were going to have to leave, because I just couldn’t stop worrying about what that was! Linda didn’t really want to leave if we didn’t HAVE to, but she told the server my concern. The nice server sent one of the bus boys out to the street to see what the dark something was and he came back and reported that it was a piece of rolled-up carpet! So, we stayed and had a nice meal. Crisis averted.
- One time Linda and I were sitting in a restaurant and I reached up several times and rubbed the back of my neck. I must have slept on it wrong — it just felt a little stiff. Suddenly, a nice-looking man in a suit approached our table and asked me if my neck hurt!! He had noticed me rubbing it. My first thought was, “Is he going to offer to massage it for me??!!” But, instead he whipped out his card (with a picture of his nice-looking self on it — nice touch) and gave it to me — he was a chiropractor with an office not too far away!! I thanked him for his concern and took his card. But, even if I HAD decided that I was in need of chiropractic treatment, I’m not sure I would have gone to one who was apparently out drumming up business at the local Shoney’s!
So ends this “diary” entry. If you happen to need tutoring in the fine art of lunching, give Linda and me a call. We might consider “consulting.”
Look for the humor in life — there is always fun to be had — even when just eating lunch!