Right Order Comes Down to Pen, Paper

Jan 15 , 2022
By Kidist Yidnekachew

In many high school and college movies, it is not hard to find characters doing part-time waitressing jobs, mainly so they could pay for college. Watching these movies in my childhood, I linked being a waiter with being financially independent. There were scenes when these kids were embarrassed or even bullied by their classmates for taking such a job, but I saw it as a sign of self-reliance and earning an honest living.

We should not underestimate the power of movies, music and the media as it leaves a mark on our worldview. The things we are exposed to at a young age tend to stick around and influence our identities. It was no different for me, as I grew up assuming that waitresses were overworked but ultimately determined employees committed to taking care of customers.

Ever been to a restaurant and the waiter brings the wrong order?

It often happens to me at juice bars. I tell them not to put Vimto, a soft drink, but they usually add it to my order. I drink it not to cause inconvenience or loss by asking them to change it. But at times, I feel like asking them to change it and bring my order as I requested it. Misplaced orders are pretty common, especially in crowded places. Most places expect us to accept the order even though it was not what we ordered. Since we feel bad for the waiters who took our order, we end up taking it so their job will not get compromised.

The other day, I was at a crowded café with a friend, and we ordered drinks. But as we were sitting outside the café, the original waitress could not find us. Another one ended up serving us, bringing us tea. We told her we ordered a macchiato. She seemed confused as she did not even remember who ordered what. It was hard to blame her as the place was packed with too many patrons being looked after by too few waiters.

“They always do this here, switching orders and most waitresses get fired as they get a lot of complaints for misplacing orders,” my friend said. “I don’t know why they don’t write down the orders. They can’t always rely on their memories.”

She was right. Being a waiter is no joke. One has to have a good memory, and remember orders and faces. It is not just smiling at every customer. But, in case one’s memory is bad, it is better to write down the orders. It is not a weakness. I have seen in movies where waiters often place a pen behind their ears and walk around with a small writing pad that they use to write down no matter how few the orders maybe, even if it is just a bottle of water or a bunch of meals.

How about in Ethiopia?

Personally, I have not come across a waiter that writes down orders. It could also be employers that might not like the idea and might not encourage the waiters to do so as they might see it as a sign of weakness. There is a saying in Amharic against such practices - be’akal yale yiresal, be tsuhuf yale yitawesal. It means that we tend to remember what we wrote down than what we are told orally.

Of course, to be mindful enough to write down the orders, one needs to value their work. There are many times when waiters have no clue what is on a menu. They do not know the ingredients and thus cannot respond when asked by patrons for specificity. While the waiters are not expected to be chefs, they should know the basics. Few, if any, choose the profession as a permanent gig. But this does not mean that a dereliction of duty is acceptable.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 15,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1133]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (kaymina21@gmail.com)

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