May 27, 2008

Christopher Hitchens hates it when the waiter pours the wine into anyone else's glass.

How come that idiot doesn't know that Hitch gets more than a proportionate share?


OldGrouchy said...

Please, Hitch is a raconteur not a well balanced law professor! He needs his space, except when he needs to intrude on our space!

Actually, Hitchens can be very engaging and even funny at times, when he's not talking about religion! His point about wine and waiters makes much sense in that his point seems to be that in a more perfect world, we'd be asked before that rascal waiter interrupts our dinner!

Ron said...

Hitch knew he was in trouble when his waiter referred to "the blood of the Savior."...

Father Martin Fox said...

I think he's basically right, but I really did wonder what actually gave rise to his complaint that, "If you go into a liquor store in a poor part of town, you will quite often notice that the wine is surprisingly expensive...."

Joe said...

The self-aggrandizement never stops. Except to drink some more wine.

former law student said...

I once read a restaurant review where the critic complained that he was forced to pour his own wine. So waiters' pouring wine is the standard in nice restaurants -- which Hitchens ought to know by now, unless he's secretly a Denny's Diner diner.

As with anything else you want done in a restaurant, you merely have to communicate your wishes to the staff at the beginning: "We'd prefer to pour our own wine, thanks."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

As with anything else you want done in a restaurant, you merely have to communicate your wishes to the staff at the beginning: "We'd prefer to pour our own wine, thanks."

FLS: that was too easy :-)

I do see Hitchens' point however. When I am out to dinner I may not want more than one glass of wine and if they pour an extra glass, I'm stumped on what to do. Drink it anyway because it is an expensive vintage? Slide the glass over to someone else who isn't picky about drinking from my glass? Pour the wine into another person's glass? Just let it sit there wasted when another guest would have liked to drink it?

What is even worse is to have to guard my coffee cup at a breakfast out to keep the waitress from adding coffee when I'm not looking. The cup is just right with the proper amount of cream and sugar and wham!! more coffee without asking.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Dust Bunny Queen: I, too, hate when they disrupt my cream-to-sugar ratio.

Skyler said...

I think Hitchens is turning into Andy Rooney.

What a stupid thing to complain about.

Beth said...

What a waste of 1s and 0s.

I fervently hope I'm never encumbered with a dinner guest who believes himself so witty and entertaining that he must "sing for [his] supper." Pipe down, you insufferable twit.

JDAXC said...

I agree with him 100%......if I'm buying.
My policy is that if I'm choosing the wine and paying for it........I'm pouring it. I always let the waiter know in advance and have never had a problem.
If I'm nor choosing or's not my call.

knoxwhirled said...

a dinner guest who believes himself so witty and entertaining that he must "sing for [his] supper." Pipe down, you insufferable twit.

ugh, you just described my brother-in-law

reader_iam said...

A simple "thank you so much, we'll take it from here" after the first pouring will take care of this (or should--it's not foolproof).

That said, I agree with the spirit, if not the specifics, of Hitch's complaint. Too often, waiters do seem to walk up to tables and start talking without, it appears, checking to see if diners are involved in a flow of their own. Sure, they have a job to do ... but the art of it is to do it without it seeming like interrupting--more like facilitators rather than directors.

Now, on the completely petty, perhaps inexplicable, side: I really HATE it when waiters come up and say, "How's that tasting to you?" or some too-specific variation It always strikes me as both too personal and to informal. What's wrong with: "May I get you anything" or "Do you need anything" or, best of all, a slight pause by the table, with an inquiring glance, so that the customer can choose to pause in eating or talking or listening or whatever and flag if something is desired?

Since I'm on a roll, two more things, one a slight annoyance and another a huge one:

1) Why automatically bring me a second full glass of ice tea or pop or whatever, especially when they're usually so large to begin with? Then I either feel obliged to try and drink or vaguely wasteful for, well, wasting it.

2) Do NOT usurp a parent's efforts to guide the menu choice of children. (This is one of the very few egregious sins for which I ever stiffed a waiter, which is so rare as to be memorable and listable.) Do NOT. For example, if I suggest milk or tea, do NOT start--with, or even without, eye contact directly on the kid--listing pop and juice choices. If I refuse dessert for the table, do NOT focus on the kid and say, "are you sure you don't want to try the xx"?

Finally, one point of mystification and a piece of advice:

1) Why on earth would you start talking about the items on the kids menu when I've already indicated that we'll be ordering off the regular menu (which, after all, costs more and thus raises the base on which the tip is based)? As I indicated, this one doesn't so much annoy as truly puzzle. Not all kids eat only chicken nuggets, pizza or mac 'n cheese, and not all parents assume that for their kids. (In fact, some actively work at expanding their kids' palates). What on earth business is this of the waiter's, and what do they think the payoff is?

2) Generally speaking, if you're a waiter, don't ask me if I find it hard to live with/go out to dinner with or cook for a vegetarian. Even more important, don't ask my husband if it bothers him or disgusts him that I eat meat. Do I really need to explain why these are inappropriate questions in the specific context at hand?

Trooper York said...

You know how I handle that reader...I usually order the appetizers for the table and advise everyone what to order. After eating with me once or twice, people usually say, "Tell me what to order because I trust you."

And the waiters usually know better than to screw with me, so most interaction goes through me so the rest of the table can enjoy the meal.

Of course, I am always scanning the room so I pick up the waiter in my sight line first, make eye contact and wave him off or on based on what we need.

Normally, I am not anything like a control freak, except in restuarants where the properities must be observed.

And I always tip lavishly, but will take the waiter aside to tell him he was a dick. I also almost always get to know the owner after I have been in a place once or twice, and once he gets to know me, if don't want a waiter, that's real bad news for him. Just sayn'

blake said...

Troop makes the waiter an offer he can't refuse.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

When the patron decides that they don't like a dish, the waiter should also refrain from trying to get them to eat it and arguing about the quality of the food.

This happened at an office dinner party. I ordered tortellini in alfredo sauce. It was some sort of horrible velveeta cheese sauce that was extremely salty. I decided that the salad and bread would be enough for me instead of ordering something else, since everyone was mid-meal. The waiter kept trying to get me to eat it, asked what was wrong and finally told me that everyone in the kitchen liked it......

At which point I (somewhat loudly) informed him that "Everyone in the kitchen can f*@king eat it then, because I wasn't going to"

Might have been that I also had a few too many drinkypoos.

Trooper York said...

That's when the daddy at the table (or the mommy) calls the waiter over and whispers in his ear; "Fuck off dude and stop busting balls."

I wonder if there is a bumper sticker for that.

Trooper York said...

That's why I had to restrain myself at the last Althouse get together. Especially when Palladian kept calling for lobster rolls and tequila shots. Luckily my wife was there to kick me under the table.

Trooper York said...

I mean I will do as many tequila shots as the next guy even if the next guy is Jose Cuervo. But lobster rolls...nah. But the cheese and meat plates were cool. And the Kobe beef sliders.

Trooper York said...

Of course, everything was cool until we started to do the Amy Winehouse version of "Beat It" and they threw us out of the joint.

And breaking the wine bottle at the edge of bar and threatening the wait staff was a little over the top. Just sayn'

Trooper York said...

The professor is a lady but she can get feisty.

John A said...

A waiter appeared from nowhere, leaned right over my shoulder and into the middle of the conversation, seized my knife and fork, and started to cut up my food for me. Not content with this bizarre behavior, and without so much as a by-your-leave, he proceeded to distribute pieces of my entree onto the plates of the other diners.

No, he didn't, actually. What he did instead was

reach into my pocket, and the pockets of everyone else, extract the money, and then re-distribute it in equal portions (except for himself - double, since he was doing the work) which is obviously more fair, at least according to all too many people like the three major candidates in the race to US President.

Chip Ahoy said...

He's absolutely right on all points.

Joe said...

My pet peeves with waiters:

1) Cheerful waiters. (Singing waiters are even worse, but less common for me since I'll tell them to shut the fuck up. I don't care if its someone's damn birthday, they can go home and sing.)

2) Having one waiter take my order and another deliver my food. (And then a third who wonders by being cheerful.)

3) Forgetting who ordered what. Of course with the above situation, this is impossible (though, I've been at places where the wait staff clued each other in.) This is even more astonishing when everyone orders vastly different things.

vbspurs said...

Hitchens wrote:

A wine waiter is or can be a bit of a grandee, putting on considerable airs that may intimidate those who know little of the subject.

And how is this different from an expert of any subculture niche?

Skateboarders. Anime gurus. Metalheads. Yoga mistresses. Watch connoisseurs.

Please. Same idea, different palate.

Father Martin Fox said...

Some friends of mine and I went to a restaurant in South Carolina, whose schtick is the waiters make obnoxious comments to the customers. No, really.

I don't enjoy being obnoxious to people, and since I didn't have confidence that I'd strike the right note, I thought it very ill advised to insult the person whose bringing me food--so I insisted on being courteous to the waiter.

He wasn't rude, but he seemed distinctly put out.

hdhouse said...

ahhh what's mine is mine and what you presume to be yours is also.

former law student said...

My pet peeves with waiters:

2) Having one waiter take my order and another deliver my food.

Your pet peeve is with the restaurant's management, which chose the front waiter-back waiter division of labor.

vbspurs said...

Your pet peeve is with the restaurant's management, which chose the front waiter-back waiter division of labor.

Oh gosh, I've noticed that too, and I dislike it.

What that's the reasoning behind all that? Shared tips?