Waiters can pick the worst times to butt into

conversations to ask if everything is satisfactory

A couple of years ago, as is the natural course of things, I proposed marriage to a young woman of my acquaintance. Or, at least, I tried to propose marriage to her.

The problem was that every time I opened my mouth to pop the question, our waiter came by to say something or other, and burst the magic moment as if it were a small red balloon.

In between interruptions, I finally managed to ask her, though by that time I was so befuddled by a combination of wine and waiterly pestiferousness that I think I actually wound up asking her to pass the breadsticks. That particular young woman, being a quick study and all that, readily recognized from the look on my face that it was not breadsticks I was asking for. The rest, as they say, is marital history. (Or at least, it was history until the marriage crumbled like one of those aforementioned breadsticks.)

That particular waiter can be found at a nice little restaurant in Verona, Italy, called Il Bottiglia del Vino. And he's proof positive that, in the same way that guilt is the lingua franca of mothers around the world, approaching your table at exactly the wrong moment is one of the more significant elements defining a waiter.

This particular miscreant seemed to have a particular knack for the fine art of the inappropriate interruption. A Brobdingnagian brute of a fellow, he played the tables at this especially romantic little trattoria like a master. I could see him lurking in the shadows, cagily watching a couple grow closer, more intimate, more tender. And only at that moment, at the very peak of passion, at the crux of concupiscence, would he leap from his lair, and opt to announce the nightly specials, take the dinner order, ask if more wine was needed, or question the crest-fallen lovers about dessert.

Sometimes he would pounce for no particular reason at all, simply to ask if all was well, if the gnocchi or the risotto was properly prepared, if the osso buco or the vitello tonnato were just right. Verona, I reminded my ex-wife-to-be, is the city of Romeo & Juliet, a romantic story that does not end well. Very possibly they came to their bad ends simply because of service like this.

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