A friend of Clive’s came to join us last night. He took over our living space as a bedroom and ate all our food. Then he used the bathroom – see photo .He’s an archetypal American and his name is Drew.
Drew is a cross between Charlton Heston and George Clooney; he stands six feet nine inches tall, has Heston’s chiseled features and works in a Hospital, which, if my memory serves me, is where Mr Clooney arose to fame.
After he had eaten all our food, used all of the bubble bath and generally trashed the place he felt a little hungry and as we had no food, after all he had eaten it, we decided to go to the “Outlaw Restaurant” and during the meal a small incident took place which for me sums up the difference between the UK and the USA, two countries separated by a common language.
During our meal Drew said to the waitress, “can we have some more water here”
It was said in a perfectly civil manner and it was clearly not a question or a request, it was an order. To which the waitress replied, “sure” and in within less than a minute a jug of fresh water appeared at the table.
Drew was the customer and she was the waitress, there was no subtext it was a simple arrangement of fact and we were all at ease with it.
As this exchange took place I thought about how a similar request in a British restaurant would work. First we would have to catch the attention of a waiter – waitress, no easy task as it seems the role of waiting staff in the UK is to ignore the customer for as long as possible because they have far more important things to do than serve people.
Once we have acquired a waiter, generally this is done by raising a hand a bit like you used to at infant school to ask to go to the toilet, we immediately adopt a subservient role and ask to be excused for the request that is to follow, sometimes it feels like begging. When the water arrives fifteen minutes later we thank the waiter or waitress, who will inevitably be Eastern European, for the water without questioning why it took fifteen minutes.
There is generally a feeling in these exchanges that if we actually get what we ask for we are on a winner so it is best not to rock the boat and remark upon the time it took to produce a simple jug of water. We then spend several minutes remarking on how difficult it is to get the staff, what a useless country the UK is, we can’t even produce waiters and the type of people who should be waiting on can’t even be bothered to get out of bed in the morning because they are all on benefits. Thank god for Eastern Europeans, although we don’t want anymore coming in and on and on and on. I hope you can see eating out in the UK is a very complicated affair that involves negotiating many social and political minefields.
Next time I am eating out in the UK I am going to pretend to be Drew and see how that works.
He is, by the way, a very nice guy and he didn’t eat all of our food, I made that up.