Service of What Doesn’t Have to Be

January 6th, 2014

Categories: Name, Restaurant, Training, Writing

slipping on ice

Walking around Manhattan a day after last week’s snowstorm some sidewalks were so clean they could have been in Arizona and others slippery and treacherous; some crosswalks had six to eight inches of ice water and slush that stretched into the street more than a healthy leap, [with slick pavement ahead], and others are merely moist.

There was no reason or consistency for the inconsistency, but the danger doesn’t have to be. Which got me thinking of similar instances.

Observant Waiters

waiter in dinerMy nephew eats out a lot. He’s easy-going, a generous tipper and he remembers names of restaurant owners and wait staff and they know his. 

However, when a waiter tries to take away his plate too soon–or that of his guest–his teeth grind. When he asks the waiter to leave the plate alone it’s obvious that he’s aggravated.

Waiting until everyone is finished before clearing may not be the kind of etiquette taught at a neighborhood diner, but pleasing a regular should be tops on the lesson plan. Watching the reaction of diners is an efficient training tool so customers need not be irritated.

Take Back that Name

Cook your ass offDan Barry wrote a very funny “Loose Ends” column, “One Cooking Show You Shouldn’t Try at Home,” in The New York Times. The name of the new show that gave Barry a chance to share a bunch of guffaws: “Cook Your Ass Off.”

Wrote Barry: “Now, to be clear, we are not talking about one of those community-access channels featuring an endless scroll of the local senior center’s lunch menu, or a man interviewing himself in his paneled basement.” The show is on HLN which is part of Turner Broadcasting Systems’ Cable News Network.

Turner’s spokeswoman told Barry “It is really supposed to be a playful, entertaining spin on the cooking competition concept…It’s a little tongue-in-cheek.”

I think it’s sophomoric and the result of lazy writers.

Cop Traffic

traffic jamI was caught on a NYC Third Avenue bus in tremendous traffic on a Thursday afternoon during the Christmas rush lugging very heavy packages. A 10 minute ride took over an hour as the bus cooled its heels, along with hundreds of cars and taxis, near no handy subway stop.

Anyone who has been to the city at Christmastime is thinking, “So???? What’s so surprising?” This traffic jam should not have happened. It occurred because people from all lanes on the wide avenue were turning right onto 34th Street and the traffic policeman at the cross-section seemed oblivious to his job—to control the flow. An illegally parked car on the avenue right in front of him added bottleneck to the paralysis.

There are so many things that don’t have to be. Can you add some?

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9 Responses to “Service of What Doesn’t Have to Be”

  1. JCB Said:

    “I don’t in any way take issue with a single one of your examples of things that “don’t have to be”, but I would like to make one point.

    In a more ordered, more authoritarian society, a property owner wouldn’t dare not clear his sidewalk, he’d risk having his property confiscated; a waiter wouldn’t dare be sloppy or inattentive, he’d risk finding himself providing food service in a concentration camp; censorship would do in the unfunny TV title writer, and that dumb cop wouldn’t be so dumb if he knew he’d be shipped off to doing guard duty at a prison for “undesirables” if he was inattentive.

    We pay a price for the privilege of living in a tolerant, egalitarian democracy, a price worth paying.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Many of these examples reflect people who are not engaged in their work and who, as the tired saying goes, leave their brains in the elevator when they enter the office.

    On Saturday night I exited a midtown Manhattan bus. From the bus stop at 50th and Third Avenue to Third Avenue and 49th Street the gutter had uninterrupted 2+ high feet of snow. I walked gingerly to 49th, hoping that I wouldn’t be hit by a car behind the bus, that didn’t expect a pedestrian on the street, and entered the sidewalk at the only opening in front of a steakhouse. It wouldn’t have taken much effort for the person who had ploughed–with a gas-powered snow blower–to make a few slits between sidewalk and street, or at least one near the bus stop. OK–it wasn’t his/her job. No excuse. The danger didn’t have to be.

    Same with the buildings with hot and cold running staff that couldn’t be bothered to put salt or ice melt outside their front doors yesterday morning. Annoying.

  3. Hank Goldman Said:

    All of your examples can be condensed into the same problem—
    Too many people, mostly just concerned with THEMSELVES, and not others or their customer/clients!
    Humankind, is not that kind…. Sorry to say!
    The ONE teaching of Jesus that we should ALL heed, regardless of Religious Affiliation, is almost too basic to have to repeat, but so few humans adhere to!
    “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”!
    i think it could be replaced by, “Love they neighbor as thyself”!
    ——Just Do It——

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    “Do Unto Others” should have been the title of my post….

    You are right…or is ME ME ME peppered with a dash of stupidity?

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    Dear Jeannie,
    I agree with you on all your points and really think that Hank expressed the essence of the problem beautifully! There isn’t much left to add to his posting! We simply need more people to absorb its meaning, and to do so as quickly as possible.

  6. Deborah Brown Said:

    “Earnest Service” in my humble opinion also means advanced planning, beginning at the restaurant sighted, division of traffic police AND! AMTRAK! While traveling to Boston over the holidays, I was met at Penn Station with a line of 150+ people waiting for a red cap/porter to assist passengers to their various trains. Forget I was given a phone number to call as I approached a specific entry to the station, which I did, and after 3 calls, no one came. Loaded down with luggage and a large bag of presents, a window washer took pity and got me to the Acela waiting room. Not only was it chaos, no announcements, no amtrak personnel trying to organize the people, ranging from wheel chair bound to those on walkers and canes.

    As my train was announced in the general station (not the waiting area that was stifling with no air,) and with no help in sight, I bucked the line, threatened the “check in person” I would likely fall down the escalator and have to sue them! He took pity on me and got me on board practically as the train was pulling out.

    Where was the advance planning for holiday travelers? Why were there no announcements or directives in the waiting room where I had paid a stiff premium over Metroliner? Who was in charge? Actually I don’t care as I will never take another amtrak train again. In fact, I’ve told everyone in earshot that will listen that train travel is worse than flying!

    Thanks for listening!

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    My heart beats fast reading your Amtrak experience. OH MY. Options are slim and it annoys me to think that people have to spend the money to ship all gifts AND clothes so that they can travel with one carry on in anticipation of zero help.

    God help those with canes and walkers.

    Another suggestion: Line up a friend who can help you at either end to avoid stress.

    But as you don’t plan to use the train again, these ideas are moot.

    I am surprised that with talk in fewer quarters than before of decreasing wasteful use of fuel that the government doesn’t encourage use of trains by ordering incentives to encourage travel. Your time with Amtrak sounds that the company is trying to discourage customers. A shame as I love train travel. They do it so well in Europe. What a shame for us.

  8. Lucrezia Said:

    There are tons of things that don’t have to be, but are. Nothing and no one is perfect, so there are bound to be mistakes which can prove costly to others, such as lethal sidewalks leading to sprains and/or broken bones. What city is without traffic jams? As one who has suffered a bruised tail bone caused by slipping and sat for “hours” in slow traffic, resulting in pain and/or serious inconvenience, a thought follows: “Is this the worst thing that has happened today?” Aggravated as one may be, such incidents beat being shot by a random bullet, mugged and knifed, along with countless choices of horrific possibilities. So let’s not sweat the small stuff, and look for what ever fun things that arise. Stop complaining, already and enjoy the New Year!

  9. Edward Baecher Said:

    Waiters should be trained to say when taking the bill, “I will be back with your change” rather than saying “do you need change” which implies that you are so cheap you need the change.

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