Waiters in India have a different mentality than the ones in the U.S.  On the one hand, they are quite servile, most pull my chair out for me and lay a napkin on my lap, but out of those humble attentiveness springs aggressive qualities.  In their trembling desire to have you comfortable and enjoy the evening, they become quite over-enthusiastic, and ply you with services you neither need nor ask for.

I use the example of the chair and napkin, although I assume this is also done in America, and while I’m not fond of the practice (when someone pulls out my chair for me, I never know quite when to sit down, and usually end up sitting too soon and finding myself in an awkward, half sitting half squatting position.  And when they pull out my napkin, the movement of cloth in the corner of my eye startles me, and I shy slightly.  That, or a strangers hands are suddenly in my lap, because I didn’t notice the beginning signs of the napkin-manoeuvre, and a slight adrenaline rush is an unpleasant start to my evening.) I won’t blame the Indian people for its usage.

The attitude I’m talking about is that American waiters are usually trained to be unobtrusive, a school of thought I wholly agree with.  After all, you’re in the restaurant to enjoy the food and the company you’ve chosen specifically, not some pimply, simpering youth, bent on stuffing you like a pig.

My point being: if I want food, I’ll serve it myself, you don’t need to keep coming round and putting it on my plate.  And if I say I don’t want more Pad Thai, you can trust me on that.  I not lying to deprive you of the pleasure of serving me.

Nothing short of a tackle can stop some of the pushier waiters in serving you what they believe you should be served, all your objections an insult to their faith in their food.

Me: “No, thank you.”

Waiter: “Yes, just a taste, madam.”

Me: “No, no thank you, I’m not hungry.”

Waiter: [managing a quick feint and release past my upraised arm] “Yes, just so you can see the taste madam.”

One man had to force me to fill out a service response card where I had negligently left blank spaces.  Of course, as I was an American, unmarried, based in another country, all my family members across the globe, it was of the utmost importance that I tell them my birthday, my parents birthdays, my anniversary, my school, and my hometown, as well as leave extensive commentary on the service, food, and ambiance.  He carefully pointed out each question I had failed to answer, and stood over me for a moment to make certain I understood and got to work. I gave them a glowing review.

I suppose I am being unfair, these are only the upper-class waiters, inundated with the pomp and luxury of their high-class circumstances.  Sometimes it’s difficult for the waiters in the smaller “hotels” to bother with you and your money, preferring to stare into the distance, or whatever waiters do when they’re not helping customers.  One man seemed really quite put out that we were offering him business, sulking around as he prepared our drinks.

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