Dear servers of the world, at restaurants fine and humble,
I eat slowly.
Everything I read about health and nutrition tells me this is a good thing, digestion is important, meals should be savoured, we should only eat until we are 80 per cent full, et cetera, et cetera.
Aside: I’m not too sure whether the eating slowly is related to my superior chewing so much as my loquacious tongue, but nonetheless...The problem arises when my companions do not mirror my consumption speed. In fact, they never do. I am inevitably the last one eating. The comforting clinking and clanging subsides until only I am making any racket.
It makes me self-conscious, particularly at dinner parties. But such is life: I deal with it, take it in stride. So be it.
Ah, my friends, but restaurants are another story.
If my companions complete their meal, there are other staggered diners still eating all around me. Oh bliss! I can make as much noise as I wish. The meal is destined to be a serene and pleasant experience…
the server commits The Cardinal Sin of Serving and clears my companions' plates.
Oh good, thank you for drawing attention to my isolation. Thank you for making me feel rushed.
Quite honestly, I don’t know what traditional etiquette dictates, but I will appeal to the advice of my clever boss who just happens to be a corporate etiquette and protocol trainer certified by the Protocol School of Washington®. She says the purpose of etiquette is to make people feel comfortable. It’s that simple.
Thus, clearing the plates of everyone at the table except one person is poor etiquette. It makes me uncomfortable and self conscious. Just as we wait for everyone to be served before we start eating, shouldn’t we wait for everyone to finish before we start clearing?
Plus, you’re just going to have to make another trip in a few minutes anyway.
So, collective servers of the world, if you are reading this (which you naturally all are), please wait until I have finished eating before clearing my companions' plates.
P.S. For a list of other serving sins, please consult this list of 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do, compiled by aspiring Hamptons restaurateur, Bruce Busche. My grievance is listed as number 17. Part two of his list is here.