Second Helpings

Message to Santa: Peace on Earth? Goodwill to men? A winning PowerBall ticket? Some things, I've learned, are beyond even Santa's powers. So I've scaled back my Christmas wish list. All I want these days is for Saint Nick to make eating out more enjoyable. But my suggestions seem to have low priority at North Pole headquarters. Do evil restaurant owners have Santa's ear? Maybe it's time to be naughty, not nice.

Here are my 1998 demands:
1. GET RID OF ALL RESTAURANT TELEVISIONS. I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore. When I eat out, I don't want to see Channel 8 pledge drives, downhill skiing on ESPN or MTV videos. It's a barbaric, uncivilized intrusion.

2. Yes, I know APS charges a fortune for electricity. Still, will somebody please TURN UP THE LIGHTS? Too many restaurants nowadays are so dark that you can't read the menu or see what's on your plate. I'm going to start wearing a miner's lamp on my head. Remember, a restaurant isn't the tunnel of love. When there's no light, it isn't romantic--it's just dark.

3. Make sure servers TELL US THE PRICE when they run through the off-the-menu specials. What else do you buy before you know how much it costs?

4. SEE TO IT THAT THE REST ROOMS SPARKLE. Having spent five years in the Third World, I'm not a particularly finicky guy. But I've seen local rest rooms that ought to be investigated by the EPA. It isn't rocket science--get someone to swab the deck and replenish the supplies once or twice a night.

5. Give our ears a rest and TURN OFF THE PIPED-IN MUSIC. We don't eat during a concert; why should we listen to music during dinner? If you want to hear Chopin, LL Cool J or Garth Brooks, stay home.

6. USE A CELL PHONE, GO TO JAIL. Is there anything more annoying than listening to some self-important cretin taking and making calls from his table? It's crude, it's rude, and it has to stop.

7. A restaurant is not the Mayo Clinic: I DON'T WANT TO KNOW HOW MANY CALORIES AND FAT GRAMS ARE IN MY ENTREE. I already know that the steamed zucchini platter is better for my arteries than the fettuccine Alfredo. Going to a restaurant in order to shed weight is like going to Las Vegas to give up gambling. Next thing you know, restaurants will be installing spring-loaded chair scales, so crackpot diners can weigh themselves after every bite.

8. Now that dishwashing machines have become standard restaurant equipment, is it too much to ask for CLEAN SILVERWARE WITH EVERY COURSE? What's next, making me eat my entree off my appetizer plate?

9. If you're going to charge $2 for a cup of coffee and $3.50 for a cappuccino, will you kindly TEACH THE STAFF HOW TO MAKE THEM? And find a supplier who carries quality beans.


P.S. Santa, if you're coming by way of New York, please leave a decent corned-beef sandwich in my stocking.

--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,


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