Chow Bella

Don't Do the Table Tap Anywhere Near Eric Schaefer

Introducing "Schaefer," in which Eric Schaefer -- a local guy with a big (but discerning) appetite and a sense of humor to match -- takes on the Phoenix food scene.

Everyone has an annoying tendency. It's human nature. I annoy you. You annoy me, often more than I annoy you. And around it goes. It's the circle of life.

But I've started to notice a very annoying pattern among servers in restaurants, and it's driving me crazy.

It's the Table Tap.

See also: - Are Restaurants Getting Noisier?

"Welcome, I'll give you a few minutes to look over the menu." Tap tap. "I'll be right back with your drink order." Tap tap. "Enjoy your meal, I'll be back to check on you." Tap tap. "Here's your check, no hurry." Tap tap.

The Table Tap consists of two bangs on the table surface, in rapid succession, primarily accomplished using the last 60 percent of one's fingers so as to create the maximum degree of percussive resonance on a wood table. It can also be done with one's knuckles, for greater impact. It upsets me to the very core of my being. And I don't understand it.

Where did it come from and what does it accomplish? Is it some way of acknowledging the guest? It is a server's tangible way of indicating to the guest that he is now departing? Is there something hidden under the table that I don't know about? Is it just to annoy me? Do I look like I'm falling asleep?

I'm not going to name names, but it happens in the Valley -- and often enough that I'm compelled to write about it. (I know you're thinking "name them, name them" but I won't.) And it was particularly prevalent earlier this summer in Las Vegas, where a server at Todd English executed this maneuver with every visit to the table while also slamming down our glassware so hard that I'm surprised it didn't shatter. Every time she left our table, she looked me right in the eye, tapped the table twice, and then walked away.

What. The. Fuck? Play the bongos if you must, but not at my table.

I've gone to relatively great lengths to find some meaning in this. I even googled "Morse code" and learned that two "dots" is the letter "I" and two "dashes" is the letter "M." Not helpful at all. Apparently, the Chinese have a tradition known as "Finger Kowtow" in which two or three fingers tap the table to acknowledge the person who poured their tea. Germans also have a similar tradition in which they "knock" on something to show respect, gratitude or a salutation. Either of these is the best explanation I can come with; perhaps these traditions have trickled into the common lexicon of servers in American restaurants.

But I'm pretty sure it's just to annoy me. It always is.

Tap tap.

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