Hey, Waiter!

You get what you order—so make sure you ask for what you want.

I was a restaurant critic for ten years, so believe me, I know dining, both fine and—well, let’s just say otherwise. Back when I was eating out three nights a week and writing reviews, I sometimes found restaurants with exhaustive menus really overwhelming. So many choices. So many ways things could go wrong. And sometimes, the consequences of making the “wrong” choice were pretty significant. (Ask my partner at the time, who contracted salmonella poisoning three times over the course of that decade.)

waiters, maggie mcreynolds blogLife offers almost an infinite menu of choices, too. And, yes, it can be equally overwhelming. But in my years of taking friends to restaurants, I learned some common pitfalls that get between you and getting what you actually want. Recognize yourself in any of these?

“Just bring me something good.” Points for optimism here, but note the neat transfer of power from yourself to another. And what is “good” to your waiter (Sweetbreads? Liver and onions? Chicken tenders?) may not be what you want, at all at all at all.

“If you loved me, you’d know what I want.” Passive-aggressive much? No matter how loyal a regular customer you are, expecting a waiter—or a loved one, or the universe—to magically intuit what you want is insane. And it sets you up to blame someone else when things don’t work out. Or maybe that’s the point? Bingo!

“Bring me whatever’s on special.” Did you know that most restaurants’ “specials” are concocted out of whatever ingredients aren’t selling and are about to go bad? Don’t be fooled by going with what’s popular, what looks bright and shiny, the stuff that has flashing lights around it. It’s often fool’s gold.

“This just isn’t as good as the last time.” I’m quoting my dear departed grandfather here. For Granddaddy, no restaurant, no experience, was ever as good as “the last time.” And because that was his expectation—that things wouldn’t work out, that he wouldn’t get what he wanted—guess what results he got? You got it. He—and you—deserve better.

“I’ll have what she’s having.” Immortalized by that “When Harry Met Sally” scene with Meg Ryan, asking for something someone else loves is no guarantee that it’ll make you orgasmic. Let them be them; you be you. Just sayin’.

“I wish I could have the steak….” I can be sitting in the lushest leather banquette in the finest steakhouse in town and working my manifestation mojo like crazy, but until I am willing to give myself permission to have what I want and then take the action that will—hey—actually bring it to me, a petit filet ain’t gonna materialize on my table.

“I don’t know, I just can’t decide.” Abdicating your choice IS a choice. You’ve chosen to let life happen to you, unintentionally and randomly. How much longer are you willing to sit, hungry and yearning, stuck and staring at the menu while all around you people are eating heartily?

“I should have ordered the fish.” Don’t like the results of your choice? Perfect. You learned something. And next time, you get to make a different choice and see if that brings you the results you want.

Get clear on what you want, ask for it, and, if you don’t like what you get, try something different next time. It works in restaurants; it works in life. But one thing’s sure: if you never place your order, the guy with the nametag isn’t going to be the only one who’s waiting. And he’s getting paid to do it.

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