i hope that i am not alone in wondering, as i reel off various allergies, preferences and specifications of my order, whether the waitress isn’t secretly thinking I am the most anally retentive idiot she’s ever met in her life? or that the hot-to-trot barman is handing over my cosmopolitan while inwardly chuckling at what a lightweight I am, watching and judging away as I try to simultaneously focus on his face, pout a little, give an air of 50s pin-up AND find £6.50 in less than 30 seconds? chances are they probably are. having been on the other side of the counter, and whiled away practically every hour in a highly judgmental state- it really is an excellent source of entertainment when there is nothing else to do except clean the coffee machine- i am all too painfully aware that judgment must be being made on me.
perfect as i may appear to be, i am sure that every encounter i have with those in hospitality must be loaded with judgmental opportunity. i am a judgment waiting to happen: i am the picky vegetarian. I am the ‘oh bugger I left without my card’ girl. i’m definitely the ‘oooooh I can see three of your face’ girl. the worst thing is, I really care what these virtual strangers think of me! i'm sure any decent psychologist will tell me, after a little prying into my past, that years of watching a certain, unnamed, relative eat up, violently masticate and spit out every waiter and waitress we encountered has left me with a cringing, apologetic need to be liked by anyone who may be seen to be ‘serving’ me. enough people have suffered already.
my condition has reached its peak today. i couldn’t go in to a certain establishment because, quite simply, I was there yesterday. i was consumed with the fear that the awful label of ‘the one that has no life’ might be slapped on me. why do i care?! i am a strong, independent woman, with plenty of ‘life’, and no need for verification of this fact. right? mr barman? so, in light of this worrying event, i am compiling a list of ‘don’ts’, born from my slew of misinformed ‘do’s’.
DON’T be anal about your dietary requirements. yes, you may be a vegan, and whether the chef’s shoes that he cooked your meal in are vegan or not may seem to you to be a valid question. to him, you are a tree-hugging idiot. Let it go, open a vegan-shod restaurant, or eat at home… wearing your vegan shoes.
DON’T ask for gold rum instead of white rum in your mojito. you may think you are the obi-wan of mojito drinking because you once had one actually made in a real, live latin american country. when you were 16. they, on the other hand, are trained professionals with a carefully considered cocktail menu. this trick does not earn you respect… it earns you derision with a side order of white-bloody-rum-ok?!
DON’T become too regular. regularity is a tricky one to play. you’re on the right side when you get a friendly wave and some free peanuts. you’re on the wrong side when they’re asking you how your cystitis is clearing up.
DON’T try to pick up numbers/dates from any establishment you value. it can only end badly. either you have to avoid it like the plague because they decided you were their future wife (you didn’t)/ they told every other member of staff about your habit of sleep-singing busted tunes. or you wind up visiting daily explaining that you just can’t understand what could have happened to his phone, while he cowers helplessly behind the bins. either way… your favourite haunt is now a no-go. well done you.
and finally, DON’T whatever you do order something that isn’t anywhere on their menu. experience tells me this is the single most judgment-worthy, pretentious, ridiculous thing to do. in contemporary society, in circles of normal, non-pretentious, non-loaded people, a menu is not a suggestion; it is a specific set of specific choices, to be chosen from accordingly. i will guarantee you, if you go in to pret a manger tomorrow and ask them to knock you up a chateaux briand, you will feel exactly the kind of cold, hard blow of derision I’m chatting about. ouch.