Travel Memories.

The Austrian Waiter.

Do you find yourself recalling little isolated incidents that occurred when you were traveling . . . incidents that struck you as unusual or interesting at the time. I have a bunch of those. For instance . . .

The waiter in a Vienna restaurant. This was, from all appearances, an ordinary restaurant. Nicely decorated, but with a decent menu and moderate prices. 

When we walked in ready for a nice lunch, we were greeted by one of the two waiters on duty. He showed us to a table and presented each of us with a menu, nodded and retreated to another part of the room, giving us time to make our selections

I remember specifically that the menus were in English . . . and only English.

(This happens all the time, all over Europe. How do they know we speak English before a word is uttered?)

At any rate, once it appeared that we had decided on what we would like for lunch, the waiter returned to our table and, speaking in German, asked if we had decided on lunch. We said we had and each of us, speaking in English, gave him our order.

The entire time, his hands were clasped behind his back. There was no note pad for jotting down what each of us ordered. When we had finished ordering, he nodded—it was almost a bow—said “Danke”, and briskly headed into the kitchen with, I could only assume, our order in his head.

In due course, he returned with our lunch and, with a crisp “Zo!” uttered under his breath as each item was briskly placed in front of the appropriate person. 

After the meal—and this is the part that struck me as so interesting—he came back to the table, whipped out a pad of paper and, speaking almost under his breath as if to himself, jotted down each item we had ordered. When he had finished, he briskly totaled the bill and, with another “Zo!”, placed it with a flourish in front of me.

I remember thinking at the time—if he was going to write it all down anyway, why not do so when he took our order? Why go to the trouble of waiting until the end of the meal to create our bill from memory? 

I finally decided it was the waiter’s way of letting us know that he was a professional and good at his job. 

As indeed he was.


  1. Do you not remember asking the waiter the same question in Belgium and her answer was, “Because you had brown menus”. You were vetted at the door.

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