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Rant: table manners

Alex Wong

 

Restaurant service in Hong Kong can be somewhat schizophrenic. One moment the waiter will be all over you like a bad crimplene suit, then, when you want to order dessert or a coffee, or ask for the bill, you seem to become invisible.

There are some with clearly masochistic tendencies. I recently dined with a hungry Antipodean whose absorption in his T-bone steak must have been obvious - to anyone but the waiter. Menacing steak knife in hand, fork making regular excursions towards his mouth, he was nowhere near finished; but the waiter circled, nevertheless, like a buzzing blowfly anxious to dart for the plate.

My carnivorous companion may well have been used to swatting insects in the Outback, and I admired his composure, given the situation. But surely waiters must know that hungry men do not appreciate distractions from their food. It's schoolboy stuff, like knowing not to put your hand in a dog's bowl when it is eating. I couldn't help but think of the scene from Peter Greenaway's movie The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, where one of the characters gets stabbed in the face with a fork.

Conversely, when you actually do want to attract a waiter's attention, it's hard to know how to do it without coming across as rude. Do you wave an arm, or simply rely on eye contact?

I had a girlfriend who used to hurl facecloths at the ceiling fans in the seafood restaurants of Lamma to see where they would end up.

Unfortunately, it being Lamma, other diners joined in - and the restaurants' invariably tolerant staff simply turned a blind eye to our rotor-assisted pleas.

 

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