A few days ago, I was sitting in a restaurant with my editor, trying to talk about work and Best of Phoenix and life in general, and the setting seemed perfect: a nearly empty restaurant with enough peace and quiet to hear ourselves think.
Except that the staff was overzealous, to say the least.
Were they bored, perhaps? Without a doubt, they were friendly, but I felt like we were getting tag-teamed. Another coffee refill, now that I've taken three sips from my cup? Another interruption of my conversation (like, for the tenth time)? It was wearing really thin after awhile.
But which is worse: oversolicitous or undersolicitous service?
I'd still say undersolicitous. As much as it was distracting and hard to really enjoy the dining experience when I was being asked every three minutes how everything was -- and getting too many water refills and coffee refills and various items in our order that should've all come out right the first time -- I prefer that to getting ignored.
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Either way, I think that you do have a tiny bit of control over how things play out at a restaurant. If your server is ignoring you, flag him or her down! Yes, the service might be shitty, but sometimes you just need to get over that, get what you need, and get the hell out of there. Same goes with a pesky, too-chatty waiter -- keep the banter to a minimum, and if it really gets out of hand, ask for a little quiet time to take care of biz.