Girls Just Want to Have Fun — And They Were ‘Cute to Boot’
“Girls” just want to have fun.
Now that I am about to qualify for senior discounts, being called a “girl” is perfectly fine with me. One of the sharp realizations as age overtakes beauty, is that regardless of what age my passport denotes, in my head, I’m still 25 years old — or whatever age it was when I finally felt like a mature person. That must have happened when I either purchased my first home or met the man I ultimately married. Either way, that’s how old I still feel, as long as no attention is paid to the little aches and pains, the graying hair or the things that just don’t work the same anymore.
Giggling over dinner at a neighborhood restaurant with a ‘gaggle’ of ‘girls’ (who think they are of the same ilk), SOME of us were getting fussy (unlike 25-year-olds, who haven’t yet mastered the art of complaining about nothing of any importance): the situation of the table wasn’t perfect enough, the wine wasn’t offered up fast enough, the calamari was too rubbery, etc., etc.
Footnote: My sister has way of punctuating this kind of scene. When she sees her friends (also of the same ilk), she asks, “Is ANYTHING all right?” And then of course, they giggle remembering what it was like to be 25 years-old again.
Back to the story: So, a fortunate thing happened while the ‘girls’ were complaining. The waiter spilled a bit of wine into the plate of the one with the rubbery calamari. In gallant style, he offered to change the plate for a fresh one…to which she quickly refused (not wanting to be obligated to eat more of it), but asked politely, “May I have a bit of mozzarella and eggplant, instead?”
Within moments, a large plate with a heaping mound of fresh mozzarella and an abundance of grilled eggplant arrived, lighting up her face and after which she exclaimed, “And he was cute, to boot!”
To that we all agreed: we prefer dining in restaurants that a) give friendly service (more akin to American-style where they actually seem to WANT the customers to return) and b) the waiters are ‘cute to boot.’ Even at this age (seniors going on 25), we still like cute waiters and started to think about some of the restaurants that qualify and those that do not.
Service in Paris restaurants can be just as bad as it can be good. While it’s true that often the wait staff is really waiting on tables in wait of their future lives as anything other than a waitperson, restaurant service is more of a PROFESSION in France than in the States. The tips are included in the price of the meal and therefore they are guaranteed a certain level of income (unlike Stateside), but that doesn’t preclude the client from leaving a little extra “pourboire” — greatly appreciated, by a good waitperson.
Sometimes, even if the waiter is a professional, his attitude can be less than friendly, and that makes him less ‘cute’ in the eyes of the ‘girls.’ It would not have surprised us if the waiter who spilled the wine had not even apologized, much less have changed her almost fully-eaten dinner, and instead, had blamed the client for placing the glass in a spot where it would ‘make’ him spill it! (I’ve seen this happen.)
I heard a great story this week from someone who eats daily at his office canteen where there is a daily special — a first and second course for one price. He chose the daily special then added an apple to it for dessert. When he got to the cash register, the cashier told him he’d have to pay ‘á la carte’ for each item since adding the apple changed the “daily special” into something less than daily.
Naturally, he argued that all she had to do was charge him for the daily special and add the cost of the apple (logical, no?). Since no one taught this woman to think even a millimeter outside of the proverbial box, she refused again, winning her argument by virtue of her limited power and rendering the apple off his tray and back onto the buffet for someone else to try adding to the daily special. (I swear this is true.) You can bet she wasn’t ‘cute.’
A few words of advice to those of you who idealize the Paris restaurant experience, only to discover it can be less than perfect:
1. Don’t call the waitperson over to take your order until you are fully ready to give it, lest you risk him/her leaving your table while you ponder over what you’re going to order on his/her time, perhaps never to be seen again (less cute attitude). And BTW, the order in which you deliver your order in France goes like this: first your “entrée” (first course), then your main course, then your drink. (If you order your drinks first, you’ll confuse even the best of waitpeople.)
2. Flirt. Put yourself in their hands and let them take care of you. Nothing works better than putting on the charm with either gender and nothing flatters them more than to be made to feel as if they have control in their own establishment. (They all get ‘cute’ when you do this.)
3. If you don’t like your dish and you want to send it back, you’ll find out fast if you’re in the right kind of restaurant or not. If the waitperson argues with you and tells you that their food is perfectly good and you’re the one with bad taste, he/she will be a lot less ‘cute’ and you should never go back. (You’d be surprised how often this happens.)
4. If you want to change the French fries for “haricots verts” (green beans) because you’re on a diet like most all the ‘girls,’ and the waitperson refuses (for some stupid reason like the chef won’t like it or they have a rule for no substitutions — this happened last Friday to me), put this one on the list of wrong-kind-of-restaurant and I’ll bet, too, the waitperson wasn’t even ‘cute.’
One reason you will find me dining at Chez Omar (47, rue de Bretagne) several times a week is not just because the food is simple and simply perfectly prepared, is because “whatever ‘Andrea’ (that’s what they have called me for 15 years) wants, ‘Andrea’ gets” and the waiters are ‘cute to boot!’
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(Photo by Eva Lee)
P.S. Don’t forget to tune in this Friday night to House Hunters International when “Starting Over in Paris” – Episode HHINT-2807H airs August 10, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT. If you are a fan of our episodes and would like HGTV to know what you like (and don’t like, too), you can post a message on Facebook at HGTV on FaceBook or send them a personal message at Contact HGTV