These are the lemonade commercial days of summer. Everything is hazy and golden like an old photograph. Children catch fireflies in jars and old women fan themselves as they gently push the porch swing back and forth with their toes.
The approaching end of August means traffic and no parking and packed beaches and long lines for ice cream, movie tickets, gas, groceries, sanity. There is almost no place you can go on this small spit of sand where you can be completely alone, free from the heckling of the outside world. I mean, maybe, perhaps, if you live behind iron gates and down a long winding driveway that ends with a house and the Atlantic Ocean pounding against the shore, you might not notice the near-constant wail of ambulance sirens.
But, we’ve almost made it to Labor Day, so here are the last of my recommendations for how to win the eternal gratitude of your waitress:
14. No touching. Grabbing my arm, tapping my shoulder, touching my hair, these things are not okay. When I waitress I have very little personal space as it is and I don’t appreciate you invading it.
15. Don’t tell me to smile. What I do with my face is my business, not yours. I don’t walk around scowling. I don’t come over to your table projecting anger. I smooth my features, put some pep in my step, and by the time I make it over to you, I’m all rainbows and sunshine.
Please allow me to drop the act without comment as I make my way from table 59 to the kitchen at the height of dinner service, when I have six other tables clamoring for my attention, to inform the chef that the woman who ordered her salmon well done is now complaining that it’s too dry and she won’t eat it.
16. Don’t complain to me about the long wait for a table. I truly sympathize with your inability to plan ahead, your utter helplessness when faced with the insurmountable task of picking up the phone to make a reservation, and the exhausting struggle you face while you stand at the door gripped with a paralyzing fear that all the food will be gone by the time you sit down.
17. Leave your kids at home. But, if you insist on feeding them in a public eatery, please do not let them order for themselves if the restaurant is super busy. I know it’s a learning experience and everything, but I do not have five minutes to wait for Little Johnny to stutter out “macaroni and cheese.”
However, eating out can be an excellent time to instill proper dining etiquette, as in: Don’t let your kids run around the restaurant. Don’t let your kids mix food into glasses filled with soda. Don’t let your kids dump salt, pepper, or sugar onto the table. Don’t let your kids have a meltdown that destroys dinner for everyone else.
If your child does throw a tantrum, it’s your responsibility as a parent and as a human being conscious of others to take that kid outside and deal with it there.
18. Remove your various electronic accessories and/or protective eyewear from the exact spot on the table where I am attempting to set down your steaming hot dinner. Thank you.
19. Don’t tell me you’re ready to order if you’re not ready to order. Being ready to order food does not mean taking a poll of your dining companions to find out who’s having what and if they think you should get the salmon or the swordfish while I stand there singing Britney Spears lyrics in my head to keep from screaming in frustration.
20. Treat me like a person. You’re the one leaving me a tip or none at all. The power is in your hands. Paying (or not) for my service doesn’t give you free license to be rude or mean or dismissive.
You might not do any single one of the 19 other things I listed as guidelines for how to behave in a restaurant, but as long as you observe number 20, I won’t “accidentally” dump a glass of water in your lap.