Listen, I was a waiter for more than 15 years, and I know that it takes years of experience to make a server's job look effortless and that anyone can have a bad night. I had plenty of them, including a few that give me nightmares to this day. But in this situation, the waitress wasn't just overwhelmed by the daunting juggling act that her employers required of her. She wasn't enough of an actress to mask her frustration and annoyance.
People forget that there's a theatrical element to the dining experience and that a good server is a combination of performer, director and acrobat. My friend Lorna, a veteran waitress, knows that having a server who projects an irritable vibe is like watching an actor constantly fumbling with his lines. You can forgive it once, maybe twice — but not for a whole evening. That takes all the magic out of the show.
Interestingly enough, the same day that I received the e-mail from the angry waitress, I got a letter from a reader named Liz, responding to the same review. "I'm glad you called out the server," she wrote, adding that she had been a waitress in Kansas City and Washington, D.C., and was disappointed that other local reviewers often leave out that aspect of the meal. She wrote that she'd actually seen one restaurant critic getting "awful, bad, agonizing service" at one meal but read a follow-up review in which the writer failed to mention it.
"Not that I'm suggesting you go on a one-man crusade to improve restaurant service," Liz wrote. "I'm just saying I'm thankful you include an honest assessment of a restaurant's service. I think the KC restaurant scene is so promising, but it's been promising for as long as I've been a part of it ... so I guess that's not saying much."
Actually, it's saying a lot.