I  know I wrote a blog four years ago about how good the service is in America  but they seem to be getting even better. When we were in Washington we went to quite a posh restaurant (well posh for us.  Tablecloths and everything.) The server had the most earnest look I have even seen. Whether it was true or not I don’t know, but after we had been seated she came and seemed to look deeply into our collective eyes (all 4 of them, there were 2 of us, I hadn’t suddenly grown 2 eyes) and purred “let me get you some water while you decide what drinks you want”.

She then complemented Karen on her necklace. Karen replied “oh I picked it up a local art gallery”. (I was just waiting for her to complement me on my necklace so I could reply “This old thing, I picked it up from a little jewellers you may have heard of called Ratners”. She didn’t ask me. Doh).

She reappeared later to take our drinks order.  Karen ordered an Arnold Palmer (ice tea and pink lemonade) and I enquired about the pale ale. (I’ve become slightly addicted to pale ale. All the lagers here are sooooo bland.  I think  might continue to drink it when I get home. And take up playing dominoes. And subscribing to the People’s Friend.) She began, very earnestly, to try and describe the difference between the two pale ales they had on draught:

“One has overtones of mo ka”
“Mo ka?”
“Mo ka”
“Ah, chocolate” (she meant mocha)
“And the other has citrus after notes”
“Like grapefruit?”
She looked panicked
“Err, I think so. Sorry I don’t really drink pale ale”
“No problem, I’ll have that”

She looked relieved.  She then began telling us about the specials which all seemed to consist of one main thing (e.g. meat) and then have four random objects attached to it (e.g. Honey roasted tomatoes, a cacophony of organically seasoned potatoes all served with a chalk jus). One thing that she did do which I liked was she then told us how much it would cost. Is it just me or do other people get panicked  when you are told the special but given no indication of how much it will cost, so you spend the whole meal thinking “is this as expensive as a steak, or as cheap as that pizza?”.  Oh it is just me.  Ok then.  Well I appreciated her telling us anyway.

She served us beautifully, kept our water topped up and was charming and professional.  As we got up to go, she looked us straight in the eye(s) and said “it’s been a pleasure to serve you” emphasising the “pleasure” part of the statement.  I have no idea if this was meant sincerely, but I bought it anyway.

The waiting staff at the diner we we had a coffee at the other day left us under no illusions as to how they felt. It was on Sunday and we were in downtown Philadelphia. I guess we were veering more towards the business area of the city, so it was quiet; but we stopped at this little diner anyway. As we walked in there were two patrons at the bar and one in a booth. We went and sat in a booth. Half the diner was in darkness.  Our server gave us 2 menus.

“Can we just have a tea and a coffee please?”
“Lemon for the tea”
“Yes thanks”

He pops off and leaves the menus. So there are now five patrons and two waitresses behind the bar.  And it was silent. Well not quite. The radio was on (not something you hear much these days as most coffee shops or bars have a playlist on Spotify curated by a music guru to get the ambience just right). This place had a radio. On the radio a very perky DJ gave away tickets for a concert to a very excited old lady before playing Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper.  After that she plugged another competition and played another tune.  During this entire time, not a word was spoken in the place.

The silence was now so bad that we were sacred to break it. When our drinks were delivered to us I nearly jumped out of my skin. We then had to explain that we weren’t eating. The atmosphere got even worse.  The two women behind the bar looked like Marge Simpson’s sisters Patty and Selma and I swear one of them sighed like them when we said we weren’t eating. The silence continued, punctuated only by clinking noise made the man sat at the bar’s fork as he cut through his pancakes. We drank. Quickly.

We asked for the bill ($2.97). I paid with a $5 note but guessed I had to leave a tip if I wanted to get out alive. I hastily left a dollar, which may not seem much, but it was still the highest percentage tip (33%) for the worst service we have so far received. Needless to say, they didn’t say “it was a pleasure to serve you” as we left.
Tomorrow: Run Forrest, Run.

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