There is no better place than a restaurant to observe how different we all are when it comes to interpreting time.
However, one similarity does reside among us all; our time is of the essence, and we notice that clock ticking, even when we have all the time in the world! And this is what makes a waiter’s job so incredibly difficult.
And yet what could be simpler than taking an order and then delivering it to the table I hear you cry? If only it was this straight-forward.
Admittedly it does become easier once you get to know your customers, for example, recognising Mme X, who desires a constant flow of food and attention. Her stomach almost groans if there is the slightest gap in the process, and she becomes positively agitated and upset. Now this prompt replacement of empty dishes with full ones would horrify many customers, launching them swiftly into review writing action, angrily reporting French Living’s uncaring desire to push them out of the restaurant as quickly as possible.
And so, a reasonable amount of time is generally allowed to pass before approaching the table, and yet what can seem reasonable to the waiter is purely ridiculous for the self-absorbed couple who have not seen each other all week, who are animatedly catching up on each others news, rather than discussing the merits of the menus they are clutching.
We stand back, we observe the mood of the table, and sensitively allow for conversations to flow, with the hope that time will disappear and that each table will eventually be carried away on a journey of discussion, laughter, flavour and fun. Sadly, this does not happen very often. We live in a time-pressured world and the symptoms of this stress are clearly visible in a restaurant setting. Eating out should be the opportunity to un-wind and relax, and yet, when presented with the opportunity to not be guided by time, when there’s no rush and the kids are safe with the grandparents, the waiter is still timed, and fingers persist in tapping nervously at any perceived delay.
How many occasions have you been swept away with a moment and not noticed the time? This happened to me recently, admittedly not in a restaurant, but during a yoga meditation practice. I was alert, acutely aware of every sensation and happening, but my notion of time had disappeared. It was blissful. When time disappears like this you notice more about your surroundings, the family or friends in front of you, the guests seated around you. take a good look around French Living the next time you eat out, notice the details, the photos of Nina and Pierre in Corsican paradise, the French quotes, and tune into some relaxed restaurant time.