Sunday, March 23, 2008

i wasn't even wearing a mickey mouse tee shirt

Have you ever had Bahama Breeze? Although I'm the last person to endorse what NH and I refer to as "family neighborhood chain" type places (Florida is known for it's glut of these, I'm pretty sure), I've been to Bahama Breeze a few times and they have some very tasty dishes if that casual, lots of crazy drinks, "island-influenced" feel suits your mood. This past Tuesday, jonesing for mojitos, coconut shrimp and indoor palm trees, my family headed to an Orlando Bahama Breeze for a dinnertime feast.

The meal was lovely. Not something I'd lovingly recount here (I'll spare you all loving recounts of all but homemade meals), but tasty, speedily prepared and unhurried. Unfortunately, while my four dining companions received exceptional and polite service, the waitress would have ruined my meal were it not for my family's fantastic sense of humor and willingness to coax away any of my impatience or annoyance.

It began with the drinks. Everyone, minus me, had drinks from the bar by the time we sat (there was a bit of a wait) down at the table, and so the waitress asked in a sugary sweet soprano whether she could get me anything to drink. The request in itself was innocuous, it's just too bad she felt the need to call me "sweetheart" and use that singsong voice. After I requested a glass of water and she wandered off my family and I immediately exchanged glances because we knew what we were in for: the waitress must have thought I was thirteen.

Her patronizing/coddling behavior continued throughout the meal. The highlight was, of course, when she felt the need to duck under the hanging light to get close to me and ask me what I'd like to have for dinner (she made no such contortions for the other guests at the table). She called me by a term of endearment at every turn, from "sweetie" to "honey" to "darling". Her voice adopted a special quality whenever it was my turn to order something. When I turned down a refill of water, she showed up with one anyway (I guess I didn't know what I wanted). Her behavior was exactly the sort of pandering to small children you might expect from someone hoping to earn a large tip from the children's parents, with the exception that her mistake in judgment meant that she was far more insulting than endearing.

Now, I recognize that I have a very young face, and that my outfit (a pair of straight skinny jeans, a flowing cotton tank top with a small floral print, and a navy blue fine gauge cotton sweater with a hood) did little to age me. I am no stranger to these mistakes; on Thursday afternoon at the airport a Continental employee asked my age (the first number is a 2) and then replied, "oh, well if you're under fourteen you need to check in as a minor traveling alone". I'm pretty used to it and try and accept it as a blessing (I doubt I'll complain if I'm carded at thirty). Still, I did everything I could short of directly informing the waitress of my age, to signal that her behavior was neither appropriate nor necessary. I spoke clearly, asked and thanked her politely for every service, and participated in lively but respectable (well, depending upon your definition of "respectable") conversation with my fellow diners. So why didn't she get a clue?

My feeling is that if someone is old enough to not order from the children's menu (not a crayon in sight at our table for five), then they should receive the same treatment as everyone else at the table, unless it's their birthday or some other such occasion. No one should be made to feel singled out or mocked when dining publicly, since meals out are an indulgence and should be a pleasure. That waitress diminished rather than elevated our experience, making me glad I was not at a restaurant at home, where I would be likely to see her again.

What are some negative restaurant experiences you've had? Would you have done something differently to remedy this situation?


Laura said...

I worked with a woman who went on vacation and was told by the woman at customs that she was too young to be going on a trip with her boyfriend. She was 29 at the time.

How to deal with the overly solicitous waitress? Next time, order shots. Or you could always ask for a highchair.

anastasia said...


Hysterical. Kind of makes me think of all the dirty looks I get when I'm holding one of my baby cousins in a public place. People always think I'm a teenage mom. Umm, hello, not a teenager. Also, not everyone holding a baby is a mommy.

Laura said...

Clearly your situation is not to be confused with a friend of mine, who IS a teenage mom (ok, she's in her 20s now) who always got asked about her little sister...

Meg from The Bargain Queens & All About Appearances said...

I hate the "honey", "darling", "sweetie" crap from strangers, but it's hard to avoid here in north Florida and much of the south. My mom gets it and her age begins with a 6, so it's not necessarily an age-related thing (though it may well have been in your case since you say you look young and others weren't treated that way).

On the flip side, my husband apparently offended someone by saying, "Excuse me, sir." The guy, probably in his 30s, made a huge deal in front of us to the group he was with, saying how we must think he's old or something. Yeah, he must not be from around here because here "sir" is just a term of respect and a perfectly normal way to address male strangers.