Is everybody happy?


There is this matter of the Waitress From Hell:

"Dear Janice: My husband and I went to dinner at a popular restaurant before attending a hockey game. As the waitress approached our table, she overheard us talking about mothers-in-law. She said she had an ex mother-in-law she hopes never to see again, "knock on wood," then proceeded to make a knocking gesture at the side of my husband's head. I could not believe it! What would you have done or said if this happened to you or someone you were with?"

-- Georgia, East Aurora

I probably would have laughed because it is so outrageous. At least she didn't connect when she made that knocking gesture. Was she wrong? Of course she was.

Servers hear many fascinating things as they go about their business, but the rule is unless they are invited to contribute, servers aren't supposed to become part of the conversation or react in any way. (See "Downton Abbey," Part 2.)

So, what should be done? I am not Miss Manners but it seems there are two choices.

1) You could ignore the whole thing and pretend she didn't say or do anything. That would have preserved the peace, anyway.

2) Or, you could have said something -- gently. "We're really in a hurry tonight. Please get our orders to the kitchen as quickly as possible." I guess I opt for the second choice. Still, this waitress was probably inexperienced and maybe even a little short in the sensitivity department. Respecting boundaries and all that.

And maybe nothing would help.

Another thought:

That ex-mother-in-law might have a case.

> Waiting too long

Q: "Dear Janice: What would you do if you had a party of 12 who had made reservations two weeks in advance at a restaurant and still had not received their orders two hours after they showed up? We were seated right away Saturday night at 6:30, and drink orders were taken, but they were "short on menus."

"All 12 of us are in our 50s and have never been to a place that ran out of menus. Finally they gathered up enough for us to share and we placed our orders.

"The appetizers and salads came out right away. Then we waited and waited. The waitress was very apologetic and one of our party finally asked for the manager to come over. He had a lame excuse about the meal being delayed because of the menus, said it would be coming out soon, and did absolutely nothing to appease us. No offer for drinks, dessert, or to give us a discount on the meal.

"The problem here is that the only way to voice your displeasure is by not tipping, which only hurts the poor waitress, who had no control over the situation. Plus, the 18 percent is automatically added to the bill, so $660 later we all left totally frustrated and thoroughly dissatisfied. What began as a great evening after seeing "Avenue Q" at MusicalFare turned into a disaster. Hopefully you can pass this email on to the owners. I didn't see an email address on their website."

-- Bob, Tonawanda

A: I'm glad you didn't involve the waitress. The story you tell is pretty grim. No offense, but there may be another way to look at what occurred.

It is late for action, but find out anyway. For goodness' sake, why are you relying on email? You need personal contact; email is too easy to ignore.

Go in person. Another manager may be on duty.

Or at the very least, use the phone.

Send your dining questions and comments to The News' former food editor and restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at