Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference."
We dined out last week, Spouse and I, on a rare occasion of ravenous hunger and a missed meal.
We stumbled into the Chinese restaurant on unsteady legs; our rumbles were audible, I imagined, to the waiter who showed us to our place.
"Is this okay?" he asked with immeasurable good grace, and when we agreed that the table was suitable- indeed, we might have eaten it there and then, legs and all- he said, "thank you. Thank you," and ambled away to fetch us some water.
Each time that he came by, whether to deliver some cutlery, the enormous plates of food or the final bill, he thanked us kindly all the while. The waiter was conventional and rigorous in his manners and seemed for all the world to be quite hesitant to intrude upon us to ask if we were enjoying the food.
"I am sorry," said he at one point in the course of our meal, when he queried about refilling my glass- and my mouth just happened to be full of chicken.
I expect that most diners leave a little food behind; in truth, we ourselves tend to require a box after each restaurant outing so that we might pack up what we could not finish. In the case of that particular evening, however, Spouse and I were in no shape to leave any remnants and we cleaned our plates thoroughly.
Based on the waiter's impeccable sense of etiquette and professionalism, it therefore came as a surprise to witness the wonderful flash of ordinary humanity that emanated from the fellow: he returned to discover we had consumed every last morsel, and he could not contain his astonishment.
"Oh! You did good! Good job!" he beamed, genuinely astounded by the fact that two people had devoured so much food in a single sitting.
I might assume he had never before been presented with such a situation. It was heartening to stride out of the restaurant full and satisfied at last, and having glimpsed a momentary and most welcome lapse in the formal facade of a professional.
We are human, after all, inhabiting the same world, and we should more often demonstrate warmth and understanding in our working lives.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 10:26 AM