I bags that table

I often sit in restaurants and wonder what people are thinking. Perhaps I do this too often, the thinking part not the sitting in restaurant part. I wonder what peoples expectations are when they go into a cafe or restaurant or even a shop.
Some people expect too much, others expect nothing at all. The rewards are different all based on expectation. Really. I mean it. Go to a coffee or tea shop, pick any. It doesn’t matter which one, it doesn’t matter if you chose to sit outside or order and pay first and then pick it up. But I want you to enter into this experiment with no expectations at all. None.
Don’t expect immediate service.
Don’t expect small talk.
Don’t expect the best table or the best barista.
Don’t expect to hear your favourite music.
Don’t expect to not sit next to the screaming child.
Don’t expect to not sit next to the person talking animatedly into their cellphone about their ex.
Don’t expect to sit in comfort.
Don’t expect to to sit in your favourite seat.
Don’t expect to sit next to your future partner in life. (If you already have yours then don’t steal someone elses. Don’t be greedy now. Play fair. This is just an exercise.)
Don’t expect to have an extra marshmallow just because.
Don’t expect a smile from the barista or the other staff.
Don’t expect to like the coffee.
Don’t expect them to get the right order.
Don’t expect to have your favourite brand.

Now sit and observe if you haven’t already started. You really should have started before you walked in the door. Never mind the world is not over.

What do you see? What do you hear? What do taste? What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you think?

Come on now it’s just a cup of coffee.

Did you think about someone else. Did you smile first? Think now. Did you enjoy the experience? Did you take more time? Did you have feel less rushed, irritation? More willing to just enjoy the moment? Did you engage small talk first? Did you love the service but hate the coffee? Did you love the coffee but hate the service? Did you love the interior and the service but still hate the coffee? Was your coffee the right order? Did you complain or just enjoy the moment anyway? If you did complain did you do so in a way that was considered nicely done? You know what I mean. Did you need to tip? (Some countries don’t tip.) Were they understaffed and stressed? Were you placed in a noisy seat? Was it crowded? Was it too much of the wrong crowd? Not enough? What time of day did you go?

There are so many factors to make our experience a good one or a bad one or an okay one. Some depend on attitude. Some depend on timing. Some depend on luck. Every day we have encounters with people and its how we interact that makes a bad day turn good or a good day turn bad or just stays the same by not bothering to interact at all. Whether it be coffee or Japanese food, it doesn’t matter. Our expectations can cloud our judgement sometimes and give off vibes that we hadn’t intended and sometimes we just miss out on lost opportunities because be haven’t observed at all.

Back to the coffee shop.
Case 1
Only one waitress in a full coffee shop and she is run off her feet.
Expecting fast service with lots of small talk is an unrealistic expectation.
Smile at the waitress first and show empathy. Go at a different time. If that is not possible then get a coffee to go and enjoy it someplace else.

Case 2
Having an arguement with another customer because they took “your” seat in the time it took you to go to the counter to get a sugar despite the fact your bag was “holding your seat.”
Expecting your bag to hold a seat means that
a) you live in a good neighbourhood and you don’t expect theft
b) you live in a bad neighbourhood and are giving to charity
c) you have no clue about cafe culture
d) you think you are being clever by ‘holding your seat” ahead of others while still not having ordered yours first.
e) you have no friends and a bag will do
f) that (e) option was unkind and should be wiped from the choices
g) that’s my seat and mine alone, back off

The expectation that your bag will hold your place instead of a body is presumptuous and assumes that the other customers hold your values too. If the values do not match then you end up with arguements. You never know what is happening in other people’s lives. They may need the seat more than you. They may just appreciate the seat more than you. Or they may just be a horrible person. Arguing over a seat doesn’t make it right. (Unless you are on an airplane perhaps when you have a ticket to prove it is yours?) And remember it was your expectation that your bag was a person in the first place that got you into this mess so let it go.
Find another seat and smile nicely. Seriously. You know why people carry laptops instead of a gun? They are stealth blunt weapons which save data but also delete at times too so watch out for the laptop wielding customers. Why do you think women’s handbags are so big. They are veteran bag holders at cafes. Never mess with women or laptop carriers, and if it happens to be a laptop carrying woman then run, but if it is too late then smile nicely and walk backwards facing her until you are out of her sight. Classic bear encounter 101 tactics that are equally useful in the corporate city world or coffee shop adventures. I’ve never seen a bear up close but that is what they say to do.

Why is it that placing a bag at a cafe might be acceptable but a definite no-no in other places. Would you leave your bag in line at the supermarket queue while you run off to get a last minute item? But you might leave your basket or your trolley packed with groceries? Mmm.
Would you leave your bag at the changing room queue to go and grab one last item to try on? But you might leave your three year-old daughter in your place? Mmm.
Would you leave your bag on an outside cafe table in Paris while you go to use the restroom? No? Mmm.
Would you leave your bag on the chair of a table of a Michelin three star restaurant while you go off to use the restrooms before being seen by the head waiter? No? Mmm.

Experiments often lead into the most unexpected places and today is one of those days. I was looking at your experience of service expectations in the food service industry but I hadn’t considered the experience of the other customers who also need to be factored in. This is the unknown factor. That is why our interactions on a daily basis can invigorate or infuriate at times. Sometimes it is better to smile and walk away.


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