Local infestation

Relentlessly annoying waiters are, of course, not unique to Italy. Indeed, here in Southern California they seem to breed like gerbils they're everywhere at once.

No matter how deeply engrossed I am in a conversation, no matter how much the fact that I don't want to be disturbed is writ large, there's a waiter lurking nearby who's sure to pounce just as I make my most sanguine of points, asking if everything is to my satisfaction.

In some cases, they even revert to a sort of Dickensian English, wanting to know "if you've found satisfaction thus far in the meal." Where waiters learn to speak like that, I do not know. (The strangest had to be the waiter I encountered just a few weeks ago, who spoke only in the future tense. As in, "The steak tonight will be a Porterhouse, and it will be cooked as you desire it to be. It will be accompanied by potatoes as you wish them." To which I wanted to respond that, "I will be dining somewhere else, Master Buttercup.")

Now, I will admit that in most cases, it's fairly impossible for a waiter to gauge exactly what's going on at any given table. It's hard, from a distance, to determine that a gentleman is describing an unspeakably indecent act to a lady of his fancy (or vice versa), or an industrial secret worth untold millions is being whispered into a waiting ear. Most waiters, I've found, tend to show up at merely random moments usually wrong moments, but random nonetheless.

But there are others who, I'm sure, have developed an uncanny ability to interrupt the flow of the meal at precisely the wrong moment. In the same way that lower animals can sense an impending earthquake, they know that something of great import is about to transpire at a given table. And so, they leap into the breach, pepper grinder held high, wine bottle at the ready, dessert menu in hand. It is, I suppose, a talent of which I should stand in awe. And I do I call it awful.

Lack of training

A former waiter who begged for anonymity ("This being Hollywood, I never know when I'll have to be a waiter again.") said the problem is simple. "In most cases, waiters simply aren't trained. Unlike Europe, where being a waiter is a lifetime profession, in Los Angeles waiters tend to be people who are something else, but who have to work as a waiter until the screenplay is bought, or they land the role, or the record company offers them a contract."

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