W is for Waitrons

c3po

“Hi, my name is Leviticus and I’ll be your waitron today?”

Only in South Africa can you be served by Leviticus.

Aside from the amusing naming – more on that later – what is it with the term “waitron”?

When I first lived in London I was keen to visit Yo Sushi (I think).

yosushi_16They apparently had a robotic waiter.

It turned out to a tray on wheels that followed an infra-red line and spent more time saying, “Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!” than delivering our drinks.

I was underwhelmed.

When I started hearing the term “waitron”, I thought the robotic waiter’s time had come. I was terribly disappointed to find human ones instead.

What was wrong with waiter and waitress? I don’t find having male and female terms sexist. Perhaps I am in the minority, but I do not feel comfortable asking, “Please waitron, may I have another glass of vino?”

In fact I find “waitron” an incredibly dehumanising term. I also think waiters and waitresses are dehumanised enough to start with.

Being polite to your server extends common courtesy and says more about you then the size of your bill.

Although, I must admit that sometime I think a robotic “waitron” might do a better job.  Like today, when eventually the manager, picking up on my pulsating aura of despair, handled it himself.

StinkingRoseWay back in the year 2000 (that should be a song title) I went to a very famous garlic restaurant in San Francisco, The Stinking Rose.

It had the world’s longest garlic chain. They took your order using a palm pilot. By the time they’d finished taking your order it was already halfway cooked.

Not only did this result in lots of happy eating people as opposed to angry starving masses, it also meant higher revenue as tables turned quicker.

Why the hell don’t restaurant in South Africa 13 years on cotton to the iPad? That why I might have a halfway chance of getting some food before continental shift moves me into a new time zone.

Speaking that particular garlic experience, the smell emanating from our pores was so strong San Francisco was vampire free for a fortnight and the cab driver on the way home had to open all the windows. Even then I thought we might suffocate.

What South Africa lacks is a service culture. In other parts of the world working in a restaurant is a career leading. Here it seems to be prompted by desperation.

bananaWe are a nation of profuse apologisers.

Even when it has nothing to do with us.

Someone in front of us slips on a banana peel, all you can hear is a chorus of South Africans saying sorry.

I went to America with this embedded in my psyche.

cycle messI learned pretty quickly and the hard way that the word “sorry” indicated guilt.

So it was my fault that the bicycle courier guy ignored every rule of the road and ran me over on a pedestrian crossing?

How humiliating was that?

 

Not only I pretty sure I was close to death, but he stood and yelled abuse at me before speeding off like some lycra-cladded demon.

The other peculiar South Africanism we have is the need to apologize and excuse ourselves when asking for service. Go to a restaurant, any one, good or bad, fast food or sit down.

camels-444-2We are so terribly sorry about interrupting the waiter or waitress’s telephone call or conversation that we all say continually, “Excuse me. I am so sorry, but when you have a mo could I get a drink?”

Which actually means, “Stop flirting with the barman, I am thirstier than a dehydrated camel in the Sahara and your tip is decreasing on per second basis,” but, we’d never say that.

Back to the naming conventions of my country.

We have cultures where the name of son or daughter is concocted from half of the name of either parent. In my case my eldest would have been Vicmar.

bucephalusDying out now are the generation of parents who attended the old missionary schools.

Their children tend to named after random Biblical characters or Greek and Roman heroes.

I’ve even met a Bucephalus.

Who am I to judge?

Two of mine are named after Saints, or rock ‘n stars, or sci-fi characters depending on how you look at it.

My favourite story was told to me by a medical intern who was doing community service as a Flying Medic. He was unaware that the community he serviced had the tradition of naming the child the last word spoken at the moment of birth.

So, you have a lot of Blessings, a lot Ntomibazanes (little girls) and so on.

apple3Sadly for this poor little mite that was delivered, the final words spoken were by the medic who said, “She is fully dilated.”

Somewhere in the Eastern Cape is a poor little munchkin named Fully Dilated.

It may be amusing, but at least we don’t call our kids Apple or Fifi Trixie-Belle.

 

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