Second Helpings

Message to Santa: Peace on Earth? Goodwill toward men? A Christmas bonus? Some things are beyond even Santa's powers.

Recognizing Santa's diminished capacity, I've scaled down my Christmas wish list thisyear. The following 12 nonnegotiable changes in restaurant behavior are the minimum I'm willing to accept in 1996. If Santa and the elves don't come through, look out: I'm going to be naughty, not nice.

1. Get rid of restaurant televisions. The boob tube is barbaric enough at home.

2. Turn off the piped-in music, or provide earmuffs. What makes restaurant owners think I want to hear "Volare" with Italian food, Julio Iglesias with Spanish food, or 101Strings playing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (any time)?

3. Could you please turn up the lights? Sometimes, I feel like I'm dining in the middle of a 1920s German expressionist film. Believe me, it's not romantic; it's just dark. What don't you want me to see?

4. Slow down the buspersons. Just because I've stopped chewing for a moment doesn't mean I've finished. In fact, don't even think of removing my plate until everyone at the table is clearly done.

5. Please, please, give me clean silverware with every course. If God had wanted us to reuse dirty knives and forks, he wouldn't have invented dishwashers.

6. Fine dining shouldn't be like a visit to LensCrafters--I don't want to be in and out in about an hour. Don't rush me.

7. I've got my own veggie crime bill: Use iceberg lettuce, go to prison. There oughta be a law.

8. Give us this day our daily bread. And make it good. There's no excuse for serving thrift-shop-quality bread anymore, not with all the good bakeries springing up around town.

9. When I make a reservation, I show up on time. Make sure my table is ready.

10. Don't tell me how many calories or grams of fat are in my food, unless I specifically ask. (Don't worry, I won't.) This insane trend has to stop.

11. It's the '90s. Women do pick up the tab. Don't automatically hand the check to a male.

12. Won't some homesick native open up a North African or Indonesian restaurant? I want couscous and rijsttafel.

P.S. Santa, if you've got an extra moment, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop a decent corned-beef sandwich down my chimney.

Common Sense: That's what seems to be missing from the government's case against Hooters.

The bureaucrats are demanding that Hooters hire male servers, in order to provide equal employment opportunity. Hooters, not surprisingly, is resisting.

I have no love for Hooters' concept--it's a breastaurant--or its low-quality fare. But the law here seems to be seriously misapplied. Sure, it's necessary to make sure jobs aren't awarded on the basis of gender. A few years ago, in fact, a well-known local restaurant that hired only male waiters was forced to hire qualified female servers.

But Hooters' jobs are clearly sex-based, in a way that, say, firefighting isn't. If the government prevails, I'm going to sue the Suns for height discrimination and demand to play center.--Howard Seftel


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