‘I repeat your order, OK?’
I look around in panic at everyone else at the table but they’re all locked in conversation. Mightily convenient.
It’s an unspoken rule in restaurant / cafe situations that at least one of the people at the table listens to the waiter repeat back the order. It’s a good practice to ensure nothing (especially not the coffee) is lost in translation.
For some reason though as soon as any waiter says these words in my vicinity my eyes glaze over and I turn into one of those nodding dogs on a car dashboard, smiling and nodding and grinning like a lobotomised lunatic until they finish, at which point my brain tunes back in in total panic and thinks: oh god, did he get my flat white?
This morning the waiter turns over his notepad and takes a deep breath in. I know he’s getting ready to reel off the three-page order that took half an hour for us to relay to him. I’d already skipped to the bathroom for five minutes in the hope that when I came back that part would be over.
I look around desperately, hoping that someone else is tuning in but no one is. Everyone is resolutely locked in conversation. It’s going to fall to me. I understand exactly how Captain Oates must have felt when he decided to take one for the team and bravely ventured out into a blizzard.
The waiter is looking at me pleadingly, expectantly, and I feel so bad that he’s being ignored by everyone else that I make extra clear eye contact and beam at him to show him that I for one am listening.
And then he starts to repeat the order back to me and I zone out just like I used to do in chemistry lessons. I can’t help it. It’s out of my control. I can hear the person next to me having a really interesting conversation and I WANT IN ON IT. But I can’t get in on it because I’m having to nod and smile and pretend to listen. But I’m not computing. It sounds like the presenter of the Shipping News is reading out a data stream of binary numbers while a swarm of wasps engulfs my head and I JUST WANT MY COFFEE.
I almost sob when he is done.
‘OK?’ the waiter asks, looking up from his notepad, and smiling at me.
I nod so hard my head almost falls off. I grin (it’s over!!!). He goes off with the order.
Of course, half of it never arrives and the other half is most definitely not what we ordered. The waiter glares at me as we shake our heads in bemusement at the lemon curd pancakes and the extra fruit salad. I can’t look him in the eye because I know, I know it’s all my fault.