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We Can Probably Stop Asking "Is this Your First Time Dining With Us?" Now

Some time ago, a planeload of my family came to Dallas from New York City. After searching for the most Texan-y place to eat, someone thought it'd be funny to take the freshly deplaned New Yorkers to Trail Dust steakhouse. We made sure my uncle wore a tie with his denim. I remember this because the waiter asked "have you eaten with us before?" When we answered "no," the server proceeded to whoop and bring in more servers, who then cut my uncle's tie ceremoniously.

So, I'm certain that the only time it's necessary to ask a table-full of people "have you dined with us before?" is if the followup is "because we sometimes slice off your clothing." My argument is that this question, whether it's phrased "is this your first time with us" or "have you dined with us before," really needs to be left out of waiters' lexicon. Here's my reasoning, which is (hopefully) illustrated in these scenes:

Scene 1:

Fancy Restaurant -- Night Four patrons are enjoying a night out. They appear relaxed, but ready to eat. A WAITER (26) approaches in a clean, button-down white shirt and carrying a notepad.

WAITER Good evening, I'm Waiter. Have you dined with us before?

The table shifts in their seat, looking at each other. It's awkward. One person takes a nervous sip from a glass. Suddenly, it's as if the four people are in school again and the teacher has asked someone to step with a notable point about To Kill a Mockingbird. Finally:

PATRON 1 (shouting) Yes! Fine! OK! I ate here. I ate here by myself, right over there [pointing wildly] because my sweet, fuzzy Yorkshire terrier was killed after being sucked into a street cleaning truck and all I could bring myself to do was eat a 2-pound pasta plate. HAPPY?

The entire restaurant is looking on.

END SCENE

Scene 2:

Chain Restaurant -- Day Two people, looking hungover in dark glasses and hats pulled down, thumb through a strangely extensive menu. A waiter (26) approaches in a clean, button-down white shirt with a notepad.

WAITER Good evening, I'm Waiter. Have you dined with us before?

One dude looks too hungover to answer. The other looks up from his menu, clearly confused as to why biscuits and gravy haven't showed up at the table.

HUNGOVER PERSON 1 No.

WAITER Splendid! Well, what happens next is you will pick a food item from this rectangular catalog of food terms. Once stated, you will hand the catalog back to me. I will pen it down on this pad, take it to the kitchen, and, using the magic of heat, the food will be produced. Then, you masticate the food.

HUNGOVER PERSON 2 Cool.

END SCENE

Seriously though, there must be better, less awkward ice breakers. Unless the restaurant serves a great deal of confused space aliens, you're going to dress me up in animal costumes mid-meal, or you're going to rend my garments, there's really no need to check if I've eaten at the restaurant before. Lets just get to the straight point: Me hoovering your delicious food.


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