It’s not just rudeness that upsets restaurant staff. Too much deference can be almost as bad I had my first waitressing job in Chancery Lane, a very lawyer-heavy corner of London, in 1991. I had been hired specifically to flog dessert wine at the end of the meal, and I learned the following: if people want dessert wine, they ask for it. Getting a person who doesn’t already want it to drink tokay is like getting a baby to take an antibiotic – you would basically have to squirt it into their mouths with a syringe. I also learned every single way in which a lawyer can be rude to a waiter: the cross-examination (“Why on earth would I want dessert wine?”); the stonewall; the sneering grandeur (“We’re actually in the middle of a conversation”). What is wrong with these people, I always thought. They can surely see that I’m not doing this on my own account. After that, I had a couple of waiting jobs that were OK – corporate events in museums, where everyone was wild with excitement because they were going to snog someone from HR, and you couldn’t put a foot wrong – but realised quite quickly that if you wanted to be treated like an equal, you had to work in a pub. Indeed, drinkers treat you like an equal at the beginning of the night, and by the end, they are treating you like some kind of angel. Diners, gone bad, are the opposite: you’re staff at the beginning and a serf at the end.
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