On Silent Dining

I’ve heard of silent films and silent auctions, but not silent dining. A co-worker of mine informed me of the practice, having been a participant—albeit a peripheral one—in it for two days. She then quit the job; apparently, she could not be silent enough.

Here is how it works: members of a certain country club inform the maitre d’ of what they will eat. The maitre d’ makes notes on his notepad, such as gentlemen in blue tie with bulbous nose will be having the rabbit. (Okay, a polite maitre d’ would leave out the bulbous nose part; I, in a very vicious mood, would probably include it). Then everyone sits down. The waiters bring the first course out, silently of course. I think they are even trained to “tiptoe.” The closer they get to the table, the more hushed they must become, much like when at a wake, one becomes quieter and quieter the closer one gets to the casket. Waiters absolutely must leave the din of the kitchen behind them; its resonances simply are not welcome. When they finally reach the table, they do not—oh no—announce the dishes they are placing before members. The man with the blue tie and bulbous nose knows he is getting the rabbit and the waiter knows he is getting the rabbit. Why tell him, then, that the thing he sees on his plate is rabbit? It's a waste of breath, as the membership was intelligent enough to see. The members—I think it might be in the handbook—do not look at the waiters. (There are prohibitions, you see, on both ends). The waiters do their damndest not to look at the members. The idea here is to take inconspicuousness to new, uncharted, glorious heights. If we cannot have invisible men, some people still think it’s possible to have invisible waiters. And so it goes to the end of the meal. Waiters, are, until they return to the kitchen, rendered mute. There is one exception: waiters can speak if spoken to, a rather dubious honor under the circumstances.

And what does your waiter get in return? Twelve bucks an hour to start, and a free shuttle bus from Cleveland Circle to the Club. (I imagine this is because they not want clunkers on club property. At the club I worked at, we were told just to park as far away from the clubhouse as possible). I applied for a job here yesterday just so I could verify what my source told me. I would quit in a few days, of course, or more likely I would be fired, for though I’m a quiet person, I’m the only one I allow to muzzle myself.