Think back to the last time you had dinner out with a group of friends. Now reflect on your last dinner at a restaurant that serves food with origins in another country. I hope you’re smiling, because what I experienced at dinner tonight had me laughing out loud, a capital LOL.
My sweetheart’s bosses invited several employees out to dinner and I was asked to join them. I arrived at the Mexican restaurant before everyone else, so I went in to get a table for six. I sent a text indicating where the table was located, and got a text back saying there would now be NINE people. I spoke with the server indicating that I would need a larger table. She didn’t speak English very well, so the manager translated my request.
When the rest of the party arrived, the same kind server came and took our orders. Again she struggled with understanding our words so we pointed at the menu to explain our requests. Everyone was patient as she worked to understand what we were saying. Keep in mind, the table had people from AL, KY, NY and TN giving the server a variety of accents to interpret.
It seems that our efforts to communicate were unsuccessful, because when dinner arrived…well let’s just say it was interesting. My meal of one plate of chicken, rice, and cheese with a side of queso and an extra empty plate (so I could split my dinner) arrived as TWO chicken and rice plates, one swimming in queso. Three beef tacos arrived as a cheese quesadilla, chicken chimichanga, and a small chicken taco salad with no lettuce. Two guests had to reorder, because the kitchen didn’t prepare their meal. They ordered ONE beef fajita meal and an extra plate so they could share. Yep, you guessed it. TWO hot, steaming plates of fajitas arrived minutes later.
Now I work in an environment where many languages are spoken and it is my responsibility to help my guests understand what I am saying. Tonight, all off my attempts to clearly communicate fell flat. I felt really bad for the server until I realized that she had no idea of the communication errors.
As the dinner progressed, the kind server worked hard to fill our requests for additional beverages and extra plates. I couldn’t help but laugh as the server smiled when she delivered her interpretation of what we had requested. One woman asked for a to-go cup of sweet tea and was delivered a to-go box for food. At that point, all of my polite table manners left, and I laughed so hard that food almost came out my nose. I even wondered to myself if the server was just messing with us, if so, she got us good. Thankfully all of the people at the table accepted their incorrect orders in good humor.
When the bill arrived, the table discussed if we should pay for what was served or what we had ordered. Pay for one plate of fajitas or two? That is a big difference in the bill and the tip. I thought back over the funny meal and laughed to myself as I imagined the woman drinking her sweet tea from a to-go food box.
I have eaten dinners out with many people over my lifetime. Dinner with this group of people made my heart warm. No one complained to the manager or berated the server. They enjoyed each other’s company, laughed at the comedy of errors, and ate the tasty food.
Tinkering With Success is about becoming a better version of oneself. Tonight I saw kindness, understanding, and humor when the guests honestly had a reason to be upset. Laughter among friends makes even the most frustrating situations an enjoyable experience. So the next time you are faced with a language barrier, look for the humor, and then find a way to communicate. Kindness always wins.