Monday, September 18, 2006

Your Waiter Tonight is Kwame Ababio.

We eat out a lot. I have a husband who not only thinks hot dogs and macaroni and cheese are actual dinner fare after a hard day's work, but who also appreciates the finer points of letting someone else do the cooking and cleaning up (or maybe he just loves me a bunch).

Anyway, we are regulars at an embarrassing number of restaurants around town, and some of our waiters even predict (correctly) what we will order when we sit down.

When we get "known" at restaurants in the U.S. we tend to move on, but here we are wallowing in our hearty "Welll-come! Long time!" and the personalized service we get. The bartender at the Ange Hill Hotel will bring our Star Beers before we can even get our butts comfortably arranged on the chairs in the outdoor bar.

And yet.

Don't mess with the stuff on your table. Ghanaian waiters are very well trained in their jobs, instructed in exactly how to do things, where things go, and when to do it all. Ted and I tend to re-arrange our table tops to suit ourselves. This means we move candles, flower arrangements, salt'n'pepper, etc. to one side so we can see each other and share food. Ghanaian waiters, with almost no exceptions, will return to our table and replace each item we have moved to its original, correct placement.

Since we are immature, we sometimes move stuff just to see if they notice.

They always do.

The same deal applies to your food when it comes. The waiter will set the plates where he has been trained to set them, no exceptions, no moving them until he is well out of sight. This is rarely an arrangement conducive to eating, but is usually pleasing to the eye.

If you are outside and having a Coke or beer from a bottle, they will leave the bottle cap loosely on top to keep out flies. Good idea, but we often forget to replace the cap. The waiter will patiently come and do it for us. It's the rule.

I can't remember the last time I had to pour my own beverage- bottle of water, bottle of Coke, bottle of beer- they all come to the table sealed so you can witness the cap being removed, and then the waiter pours your drink for you. And refills it anytime it gets below half. We have occasionally been scolded for refilling our own drinks, although most of our waiters are used to us doing it by now.

Sunday night we ate at a new Chinese restaurant that had napkins folded all fancy and stuffed flower-like into wine glasses at each place. After we chose our table, our waiter came over immediately and snapped open our napkins, then carefully place one corner of it under the salad plate and the rest over the edge of the table into our laps.

Since Ghanaian restaurants tend to use their tablecloths over and over in an evening no matter what gets spilled on them we are used to a variety of schemes designed keep them as clean as possible, but this was a new one on us. We didn't want to mess up their tablecloth, and knowing what slobs we can be, we left the napkins in place and basically did Yoga poses when we needed to dab the corners of our mouths. Plus we lived in fear of accidentally grabbing the tablecloth along with the napkin and upsetting the whole shebang.

Speaking of Chinese restaurants...we have been to no less than six different ones in our time here (we like Chinese food a lot), and every single one of them offers a hot steamy towel with which to wipe your hands before the meal (and a few of them do so after the meal also). This is a nice touch, except the towel boy always brings them in a tray and hands them to us with tongs. This is because they are TOO HOT TO HOLD. Yet he hands them to us anyway.

And we take them.

And then do the hot potato dance with it until it unfurls, when we wave it like a flag of surrender trying to cool it off. We have seen other patrons manage this ritual without the histrionics, but we can't seem to develop the asbestos hands necessary to act like grownups. At least we amuse our towel boys.

Last weekend we were at Ryan's Irish Pub and decided to eat outside on the patio because it was such a nice night (and no one else was out there). We sat at our favorite picnic table and our waiter showed up with nice cushions that attached to the benches with elastic bands. We told him he was spoiling us and his grinning reply was, "Of course I am! That's my job."

I'm trying real hard to imagine that scene at our Texas or California Bennigan's and I'm just not getting the visual.