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A couple evenings ago I met my wife and a couple of her friends at an Italian restaurant I didn’t know, a lively place in a neighborhood untainted by trendy revitalization. The food was good, the atmosphere robust, and the service unusual. Looking back, I wonder if our waiter, a man of unwavering aplomb, was practicing the latest and most advanced tricks of the trade.
He appeared to have read a professional manual that says this: "Even if a woman picks up the wine list, discusses it with you, and orders the bottle, when you uncork the wine and pour a splash into a glass, if there is even a single man at the table hand it to him to sample, especially if you have any doubts about the bottle. As he had no say in the decision and probably doesn’t even drink wine, he won’t give a damn what it tastes like and will give you a thumbs up. Women can be persnickety."
And goes on to say this: "Sometimes a table of diners is enjoying itself a little too much, and no one’s in a hurry to order. If you want to move things along, simply come to the table and begin picking up the menus. Somebody is sure to say, 'But we haven’t ordered yet,' which is your cue to say, 'Well, then,' whip out your pen and pad, and begin."
And then this: "When the dishes come up, you may feel a little uneasy about one of them. When this happens, simply bring that diner an order from another table. To make sure it won’t be nibbled on, set it down making a remark along the lines of, "I must say, this bass looks delicious.' The diner will reply, 'But I didn’t order bass,' and you will say, 'Well, you certainly didn’t,' and sweep away the bass and return from the kitchen with his actual order, which he will now be much too invested in to question."
And when the hour grows late and the staff is eager to knock off, there are various ruses that encourage the last stragglers to clear out. But this is a new one: "Sometimes diners continue to sit and talk even after one of them has signed the bill. So make a show of approaching the table and sweeping up the credit card slip. But pick up the customer’s copy and leave the signed merchant’s copy on the table. The dumbfounded group may react by beating a hasty path to the street, thinking that if they move quickly they can all eat free. If so, intercept them at the door. If instead you see a bewildered diner examining the merchant’s copy, bear down on the table and snatch it from his fingers. No need to say thank you, as it’s too late for them to reconsider the tip."