Wednesday, April 02, 2008

food protective behavior

So, what's up with food protective people who won't let you clear their plates, even when you know they are done?

I encounter all manner of weird food issues as a waitress: people who won't allow you to cook their food in ANY FAT WHATSOEVER ("NO! Butter, NO! Oil! Or it's YOUR ASS!"), people who demand that you hold the starch and add extra greens to everything (very common, thanks Atkins/South Beach diet-craze), people who freak if your restaurant deigns to complicate their wildly complex & totally psychotic diet-food regimen. But I have to say, one of the weirdest food issues I encounter semi-regularly is when people REFUSE to let you clear their plates, even when they are quite obviously already done eating their meal. It happened tonight and the interaction went something like this:

I realize that Table 42 has not touched their patatas bravas in a while. They seem totally engrossed in their conversation and the table looks messy and wasted beneath them-- crumbs everywhere, bits of corn and cheese all over the place. Yech, I'd love to clean that up and get them all set for dessert. I make my way over to see if I can help.

ME: May I take these plates out of the way, ladies?
WOMAN: No, we're okay. We're still working.
ME: Oh, okay. No rush.

They resume their conversation, and I smile and walk away.

Ten minutes pass. I see Lilliana, one of the backwaiters, walk over to Table 42 and ask in her broken English if they are done. They shake their heads. She leaves empty handed.

Ten more minutes pass. I go by the table again. Should I ask now? The patatas are in the EXACT same formation they were in when I first approached the table to clear. The table still looks every bit as messy and offensive to me. These ladies MUST be done by now. What if they have been done for a while, and think I'm a bad waitress for leaving them like this? I'll ask again.

ME: Can I clear for you ladies?
WOMAN: No. Thanks. I'm still working. She smiles politely, as though this is the first time this evening -- no in her LIFE-- that anyone has tried to clear her plate.

Ten more minutes pass. I'm at a lull and have nothing else to do, so I eye Table 42, wondering when I'll be allowed to clear.
Even if they AREN'T done, they should be. The potatoes are definitely ice cold by now, growing mealy and awful under their fried exterior skin. Eating them now would be like biting your teeth into a weird sponge. The aioli dipping sauce is growing warm, drooping in a sad puddle on the plate. Yech, it's DEFINITELY time to get that food out of the way...But I refrain. I will wait. It is clear that these ladies have food issues and I have no interest in getting involved.

As we all know from yesterday's post, I am currently in the throes of PMS, which is making me fat, emotional, and most of all, forgetful. After my last failed attempt to clear Table 42, I promptly forget that they are in the restaurant at all. They have been here for so long and are so engrossed in their own thing and CLEARLY uninterested in the quality of the food they put into their mouths, I decide to let myself off the hook and ignore them completely until they are flagging me down and begging to be cleared.

I forget about them for, like, a really long time. So long that when I do look up and notice Table 42 again, the first thing I think is, "Oh! I have a table there! What are those ladies doing and how long have they been here?"

I think those girls sat there staring at the same plate of cold, foul patatas bravas for over an hour.

I mean what is that? That has to be a psychological issue at play there, right? Some manifestation of weird control issues? Food protective behavior, to say the least? I mean, I have my food issues like every other girl, but these issues I just don't get.

I invite anyone with a psychological background to weigh in.

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