October 17, 2004

STRESSFUL DINING

I've talked to Europeans in the States who hate feeling rushed at American restaurants. I'm so deeply American that I can't really feel their pain, because I really don't like lounging around in restaurants all night. Even people here will applaud the slow pace at German restaurants and say that they enjoy not being rushed out the door right after dinner, but I still haven't gotten over the feeling of "wasting time" during a German meal.

I read, with intense envy, Varifrank's details of his weekend. I was beside myself as I imagined an evening of a Mexican restaurant, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, and a grocery store. All after 1800 -- that's madness. But the timeline for his dinner struck me. They arrived at 1830 and got out of there at 2100, and because they had to wait so long, their dinner was free. Hoo boy. I go to dinner here every Friday night at about 1830, and we never get out of there before 2100. Usually there's only one or two other tables occupied there, and there's never a rush. Except for on my part: I usually get up and go get the menus myself.

Now before Oda Mae feels slighted, since she's one of the people I eat with every week, I must say that it's not that I don't mind the company. I enjoy talking with friends I only see once a week. But I always feel this feeling of stress about wasting time. I feel like we're waiting too long in between Necessary Dinner Actions.

Back in the States, I have on occasion paid the bill and sat there for a while longer. That's enjoyable, because you're done with all Dinner Actions, but you've decided you're not ready to leave yet. Here, as soon as we pay the bill, it's like I can't get out of the building fast enough, because we've already waited about 45 minutes to pay the bill. I feel like we wait an eternity to Get Menus, Place Orders, and Pay the Bill. I'm constantly trying to flag the waiter down so we can pay. It's not relaxing for me. I don't feel like we are in charge of our eating pace, the restaurant is, and so I feel enslaved to the waiter's time schedule. (The word "enslaved" sounds pretty intense, but I can't think of a better way to express the feeling of impatience and frustration I feel trying to get a German waiter to notice me.)

I know there are plenty of Americans who enjoy this type of eating experience, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But it drives me crazy. One night my mom suggested we go "grab a bite to eat" when she was visiting, and I cracked up. There's no such thing here, and I always feel stressed when we spend hours at the dinner table.

And don't even get me started on Varifrank's midnight trip to the grocery store...sigh.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:53 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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1 The post came about because at about 9:00 on friday my wife exclaimed "For an economy that is supposed to be in such bad shape it sure as hell is hard to find a place to park!" and bear in mind, we chose to go to 'on the border' because its usually pretty easy to get a seat. you can see how wrong we were. Thanks for visiting.

Posted by: Frank Martin at October 17, 2004 05:56 AM (fWDG+)

2 Nope, I don't feel slighted,just surprised. With the guys gone, what else is there to do on a Friday night except gab with your friends? Do you run home to clean your oven? (Gah, I hope not!) No, I think the problem here is that you have not been taking advantage of your passenger status on those Fridays when you're not designated driver. Then you'd understand why 9 or 10 o'clock is fine with me - as long as I have enough Euros to keep setting up the red wine!

Posted by: Oda Mae at October 17, 2004 10:03 AM (KhuvC)

3 Maybe part of it is that I also work a lot of Saturday mornings, so it still feels like a "school night" to me...

Posted by: Sarah at October 17, 2004 12:49 PM (6QL7C)

4 OT but did you hear that Steven den Beste has a post up?? I knew you'd want to know!

Posted by: beckie at October 17, 2004 02:26 PM (hoo48)

5 I no longer eat anywhere that has a waiting list. I've never eaten anywhere that was worth waiting for. And I hate waiters who want to be a part of my dining "experience." If I wanted to spend time with the waiter, I would dine with him. My idea of a good waiter is one who never asks if I need more water or tea or coffee--he simply sees when I need more and shows up to take care of it.

Posted by: Mike at October 17, 2004 05:07 PM (ckYKs)

6 One time in Pisa and once in Prague, I had to literally beg for the check so I could get the hell out of the restaurant already!

Posted by: Tanker Schreiber at October 17, 2004 05:55 PM (dERQH)

7 Maybe if the restaurant was a really quiet space in which to actually have a conversation without yelling or saying "what?" after every sentence, I would feel like hanging out. But I'm with you, I hate waiting for the check when we're done eating. If it feels like the waiter is going to be slow I'll just ask for the check when they bring the food. I'm also with you on chatty waiters, no thanks, I'm not there to be charmed. I waited tables for over a year, so while I know it's hard, mostly honest work, I also know when the service sucks.

Posted by: Beth at October 17, 2004 09:57 PM (KugRT)

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