121. Waiters II

There are many, many things in this world that get on our nerves. Take a look at Not-So-Great Britain; VAT hit 20% a few years ago and fuel duty is so high that it would be more economical for each of us to go out and buy our own Concorde. Those of a smoking disposition are now forced out into the cold if they want to enjoy a smooth Marlboro, raising the question of whether the NHS is better prepared to deal with lung cancer or hyperthermia. People’s kitchens are full of different sized bins, each designed to deal with a different form of waste, God forbid should you drop a copy of the Guardian into the food scraps canister.

Of course, here in the UAE there are also many other things that get on our nerves. From the group of men who are working in my underground car park with their curious shouting habits to the fact that if I want to walk to a bar I need to allow a week. Land Cruisers, alcohol licenses, tourism fees, it’s these little nuisances that are indeed the backbone of life. It is easy to get wrapped up in all the big talking points that shape a country, but usually it’s the compilation of the small things that grate the most.

I am, by nature, a helpful person. I am conscientious to others and the job that they do. I insist on giving people as much information and help as I can in order to make their lives as easy as possible. If, for example, I have a leak in my kitchen, before calling the plumber and simply telling him I am knee-deep in dirty dish water I will investigate. Once I have all the details I will then call the plumber and tell him exactly what is needed. It suits both of us and the job can be done efficiently.

Should people not want my assistance in making their lives easier then that’s fine, but I must point out that I am smarter than they are and that they should think again. This brings me onto the point of today’s moaning; waiters. Again.

I have been accused by many people about ruining their lives by pointing out things that they hadn’t previously noticed, and as such now sends their OCD into overdrive. So, in keeping with tradition, here we go again. How annoying is it when waiters and waitresses insist on rearranging your table? I cannot stand it, it is one of my chief gripes and one that grates on me to such extremes that I worry that one day I will actually catch fire.

The routine normally goes thus: when you sit down at a table in a café, you are asked how many people are in your party. Normally there are two of us and we sit at a table which could accommodate four. The surplus crockery and cutlery are removed. Then, for no reason, the attendant will move the sugar bowl, napkins and condiments to one side of the table. Why? Now they’re just further away from me.

Naturally, coffees are ordered first and subsequently will arrive first. There are two cups, two saucers, two coffee pots, two jugs of cold milk, two plates of mini cakes and two teaspoons. It’s all too excessive, why can we simply not have a pot of coffee between us, and how much milk do you think we need? Anyway, the point is all this coffee paraphernalia takes up so much space that it means that when the food arrives there will be no space.

Being the helpful, conscientious person that I am, I strategically get the table in order. I know there are two plates coming, so all the coffee making equipment must be sidelined. I empty the coffee from one pot into another, as with the milk. The two plates that arrived with cakes on them are stacked atop each other. The empty coffee pot and empty milk vessel go on the two plates and space is again plentiful.

But no; my efforts, it always seems, are futile. The waiter turns up early with a basket of bread and a further two plates. They are put down and then aligned with the position of the moon. He leaves and returns instantly with some butter and jam and spends close to 30 minutes making sure that they are in the stupidest place possible. I want to reach over for the balsamic vinegar and oil but his arm is still in the way.

Hmm...eggs are a little off today.

Hmm…hollandaise sauce is a little off today.

After the personal space invasion is completed I attempt to eat the bread knowing that I surely have some time to make space for the main course. But I am usually thwarted as my eggs Benedict arrives within seconds. The surprise attack means that the table is not ready, with the small bread plate in my place occupying the landing strip for my hollandaise sauce.

The waiter then takes control of the situation as all I can do is sit there getting annoyed watching the faffing and incompetence unfold before my very eyes. Things are picked up and moved to the other side of the table for seemingly no reason. The bread plate remains in the middle and the poached eggs are put off to one side. “Sir, are you finished with this one?” says the man pointing to the empty coffee pot and milk vessel stacked on top of the two small plates. What do you think, honestly, mate?

Once he gets around to actually putting my breakfast in front of me, and then when he has finished rotating the plate so that the turkey bacon points north-north-west at bearing 72 mark IV degrees, my yolks have gone solid, my mushrooms have walked off and my hollandaise sauce has the viscosity of tar. The final straw is when I am instructed, seemingly against my will, to “Bon appetite” before I begin navigating my way around the perplexing smorgasbord.

Why do they all do this? Why does every waiter and waitress in all UAE café’s insist on rearranging everything for absolutely no reason at all? All it takes is a little thought. If two people want an Americano then they won’t mind sharing a pot. Put the tea cakes on the saucer and dispense with the surplus plate. One jug of milk will do, too. Bring the bread early so that it can be completely removed when the main event arrives. When you do deliver the main order just put it on the table. It really, really, doesn’t matter where the tomatoes are facing. Alternatively, ask your manager to buy bigger tables.

Generally the experience leaves me very annoyed, but I guess that if you want to avoid 20% VAT, high fuel duty, environmental Nazis and the Guardian, then it’s a small price to pay.

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