It has been wonderful to be able to eat out again, unencumbered by facemasks, plastic partitions and restaurant servers who stand six feet away and mumble so their words are indistinguishable. Going out to eat with my daughter, Marie, who is deaf, had been especially challenging, because it had been impossible for her to order for herself at that distance, and the wait staff generally had to deal with me.
We recently went out for lunch at IHOP. With a smile and at an acceptable social distance within my hearing range, a lovely waitress greeted us and gave us menus. When ordering, Marie pointed to a picture of a strawberry milkshake. She then ordered a cheeseburger and fries, at first using ASL to communicate, but then pointing to the picture in the menu, making sure to highlight the lettuce and tomato. Using her phone, she spelled the words “well done,” “ketchup,” “mustard” and “mayonnaise.” Making great eye contact, the waitress appropriately paid attention to Marie, not once looking at me to interpret what she was saying. After our meal was served, the waitress stopped by the table several times to see if we needed anything, and each time Marie would smile back at her and nod her head “yes”. It was a perfect lunch out with my adult daughter who was treated equally.
Saturday, Marie helped me to bring a van load of household items to a young mother who had been homeless and was finally moving into an apartment, so I treated her to a meal at her favorite restaurant, Texas Roadhouse. We were both greeted cheerily at the door and ushered to a booth with our precious bag of peanuts. The very attentive waiter waited patiently for Marie to pick out a fancy drink, even pointing a few photogenic ones posted in conspicuous places on the menu. He was VERY patient while Marie changed her mind several times, finally settling on something icy and blue. After taking our drink order, he used the ASL sign for “thank you,” which prompted a similar response from Marie, pleased that he was speaking to her directly. Wide-eyed looking at the menu, Marie eventually decided on a large steak, a salad, macaroni and cheese and a baked potato with bacon, sour cream, and cheese, all which she ordered by pointing to the pictures on her telephone. He was very considerate in taking her order, confirming each item using ASL, and standing there very patiently as she changed her mind several times. Embarrassed by the amount of time she was taking, I told him several times he could go do something else and come back in a few minutes, but he smilingly remained attentive to her as though he had all the time in the world. Ever so attentive, he automatically refilled the basket of scrumptious rolls and cinnamon butter as soon as it was emptied and refilled our drinks when they were low. Each time the waiter came to the table, he would give Marie a thumbs up sign to make sure she was happy with her meal and she eagerly thumbs upped him back. She had no problem summoning him over because she needed more salad dressing or a takeout box to bring home the bulk of her meal. He was so attentive to Marie and to our needs that I would give this waiter, “Mr. Worm” as he was dubbed, an award as the Waiter of the Year.
My advice to servers everywhere is to pay attention to patrons with disabilities. They are hungry, just like everyone else, and they want their own personal needs to be met without having to go through an intermediary. Please treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
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