He makes eye contact, as I approach. My body language is soft, shoulders back, head cocked to the side, my hello gentle. I ask how they are doing, but don't really care about the response, as that is not the aim of my question. I am acknowledging your presence immediately so that I gain your trust for the course of the evening.
He nods in return. Thank you. Your friendly presence has put me at ease. I'm looking forward to a good meal.
"May I start you with a cocktail?" It's been a long day hasn't it? Let me fix that.
"Yes, I'll take a vodka martini with," pauses, "an olive and an onion." Yes it has been a long day, I shouldn't have to compromise with my beverage.
The experienced diner. We speak the same language, he and I; He knows how to ask for what he wants, and I in turn can serve him flawlessly. Drinks, wine service, setting, clearing, resetting, it all becomes a seemingly effortless dance. I am allowed to feel, for short time, the frustrations of my job ebb away.
But we in the service industry are not always charged with the care of so skilled a guest. I get all kinds, and they all want the same thing from me: a stiff drink and a hot plate of pasta. But the inexperienced guest is often flustered, anxious about how things will proceed. I do my best to weave my spell, to make them feel safe and satisfied.
I approach my lost-looking fellow, calmly smiling. "How are–"
"We're not ready yet!" He and his companion look frayed, pouring over the menu like they are deciphering an ancient manuscript.
"I was just wondering if I could start you off with a couple beverages?" Now, now there.. (cooing noises) It's going to be all better once you have a little drinky-poo.
"Do you have any house wine?" HELP I am scared of spending too much money here.
I guide him to the wines by the glass list. "I don't recognize any of these names.. Ugh, that's fine I guess," he points to the cheapest glass.
He begins asking questions about every other word of the menu, clearly unfamiliar with the terminology. I am terrified of ordering something I don't like. I don't understand any of this crap! Why does the menu have to be so complicated!
I patiently explain the unfamiliar words, try to make the dishes seem appetizing. Trust me, our dishes are very popular, you will like them. Try something different.
Mid-explanation he interrupts: "That's not what the menu says! What are you, NEW?" If I don't get something to eat soon I'm going to lose my shit.
I take a deep, deep, long breath. The spell is dangerously close to being undone. "No." I firmly point to the menu and finish my description.
I leave the table and look around wistfully. Some nights my section is full of these braying, incompetent diners. Where is he, my confident guest? I'll wonder. Please come and save me from these fools...