Saturday, November 25, 2006

Check, Please?

So there's this corner on 8th Avenue in Chelsea, where we live that is cursed. That's right, it's cursed. This is the superstition of some New Yorkers-- that certain spaces are just cursed: Whether there's clothing store there that closes, or a restaurant, or whatever-- it's believed that whatever inhabits that space, just is cursed to not be successful, to be a failure and (ultimately) be forced to close it's doors. That's why when over a year ago when this restaurant called Lasagna opened on the southeastern corner of 8th Avenue and 20th street Michael and I were so excited. Italian food-- Hardly a novelty for New York-- though we were relived that it wasn't a Starbucks, a Jamba Juice, a bank or a nail salon. We were really pleased that this was not the typical, local, Chelsea-interpretation of an Italian restaurant (i.e., Haute cuisine, etc...) but simple, down-to-earth food, with reasonable prices, red-sauces, etc...

The one issue that we've had with this restaurant was not the food-- but the service! The waiters have always been more interested in being cute and funny that punctual and getting the order right. About two months ago after having stayed away from the place for a while since being disgusted by the appalling service the time prior, we went in for a lovely dinner, great food and the service was pretty quick. That was until we got the past where we thanked out sassy Latina waitress for everything and asked for the check. It took her nearly 20 minutes to get the check to us so we could pay and leave. Of course, all that while we were watching her running around from table to table, schmoozing the other patrons, taking new orders, and (essentially) attending to everyone in the restaurant except us. Finally, we flagged the manager down, told him we really needed to pay and leave and that we couldn't get her to come back with the check. Ten minutes after that, a check appeared. Michael reached for his plastic and I said, "Are you nuts? We'll be here all night waiting for for them to run the charge. We're paying cash." And so we did and we left, again dismayed by the horrible service.

So it'd been a few months and I was ready again. We went to see Marie Antoinette last night and it was quite disappointing. The plan was to do French food after Marie Antoinette (and to night we'll be doing Spanish Tapas before seeing VOLVER) but I was so disappointed that I said, "I'm wanting red sauce. No French food tonight" and so we walked into Lasagna.

After we were seated, THE VERY SAME WAITRESS came to wait on us. Again, all sassy and perky, she asked if we would like to place our drink orders. I ordered a glass of the Syrah and Michael ordered a glass of the Chianti. She asked if we knew what we wanted to order and so I placed mine, Michael placed his and then she began to repeat it to us-- and was getting it wrong. She started over, and repeated it and got it right. She returned a few minutes later with my Syrah and a glass of Pino Grigio. We both looked puzzled and Michael asked, "What is this? I had ordered the Chianti?"
She looked puzzled and said, "I heard you order the Pino Grigio."
This set me over the edge. I thought to myself, 'This woman who made us wait 30 minutes last time we were here to pay and leave is already starting off with the wrong order, she flubbed the order before when repeating it to us, I'm not going to have this anymore. I want a new waiter.'
Instead, I took a deep breath and replied to her before Michael could, "No. He ordered the Chianti. I heard him order it and you repeated that order. Would you like to write down our order instead of memorizing it?"
And she snapped back at me, "No. I mean, this isn't exactly rocket science, you know?"
And quickly retorted, "No, it's not rocket science. It's also not the first time we've had to deal with this with you."
"Oh it isn't??" She asked in a smug, sarcastic and accusing tone.
"No. We've been through this twice with you." I answered.
"Oh you have??? Twice?? Wow, well...." She said as she fumbled for something clever to say. But remembering herself she stepped it down a notch and said, "Well, I heard him say a Pinot Grigio. But what did you want? "
Michael clearly annuciated, "A CHIANTI."
And she took the White wine, quickly returned with a Chianti and that was that.

She somehow managed to get our orders right for the rest of the evening and the bill came in only 5 minutes. It's really sad, though, that in order to get the kind of service that should naturally come with any dining out, you need to call people on their shit.

Honestly, it's THE ONE AND ONLY aspect of life in New York that, even these 16 years after I first moved here, I cannot adjust to. It's the lack of true customer service in eating establishments. Every single one of these waiters is wearing some other begrudging badge that says, as if stamped in place of their name tag, 'I'm an actor and just doing this until I'm discovered'. Or, 'I'm waiting these tables because I can't collect public assistance, and it's all your fault.' And that's the thing that gets me. I understand that, unlike in Europe where being in the service industry and being a waiter or waitress is truly a career choice, here it is often something that people do by default because they need to make money. And while I am sorry for anyone who is forced to work in a job they don't like or do something they don't want to do because of the situation they're in, I'M NOT THE ONE TO BLAME. I'M THE PATRON-- THE CUSTOMER. I'M SUPPOSED TO BE THE 'RIGHT' ONE IN THE RESTAURANT. It's not my fault you woke up at 37 years old without a plan for your life or how to support yourself. I'm sorry you didn't pay more attention and apply yourself in high-school. But, again THIS IS NOT MY FAULT. Just take my order, get it right and try to put a smile on your face so I can at least justify tipping for bad service.

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