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Nov 18, 2006 04:36 PM

Reading the table, Diner/Waiter Signals--Here are mine, what are yours?

Someone just mentioned in another thread the skill of "reading a table". I realized that we all have little signals, some taught by our parents, some we learned. Here are mine--I'd love to know, what are yours?

Closed or face down menu means that we're ready to order.
Persistant eye contact from across the room means that we need the waiter.
Silverwear paired at 6 o'clock (or 4 o'clock) means were done eating.
Fork at 8, knife at 4 means we're not done yet
Slight pantomime from across the room of writing with right hand on palm of left hand means that we need the bill
Credit card sticking out of check folder, which is laid just over edge of table means that we're ready to pay.

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  1. index finger pointing to empty cocktail/beer/wine glass: "Another one, please!"

    Thumb and index finger tips touching forming a circle: "I liked it"

    3 Replies
    1. re: RicRios

      Please don't make the OK sign if you leave the shores of the US of A. In some countries, that is an extremely vulgar hand sign. Not worth making a list. Just don't do it overseas...
      Come to think of it, in some ethnic restaurants?

        1. re: MakingSense

          For that matter, don't do the thumbs-up in parts of the world, either, because it means "up your @**". Much better just to say "I liked it" or "j'ai bien mangé" or "ho ho sik" or whatever.

      1. Eye contact and hopefully raised eyebrows to get attention, and lavish smiles in appreciation of service. Very occasionally, a slightly raised hand if the server is far away.

        1. Funny.. I never thought too much about it, but my signal for the bill is the "air signature". Kinda like you are signing with a pretend pen. In the air. Which I do with my left hand, but only because I am a southpaw.

          And I probably do it out of habit even if I am paying cash.

          And I always lavish smiles in appreciation too. When I was younger, my friends used to joke that I was flirting with waiters, but really I was just trying to be nice and polite.

          1. - Index finger in the air like the symbolf number 1 and air talk "when you have a chance"
            - Menu closed and upside down when I am ready to order
            - wine glass upside down in a crowd when i do not want wine
            - Water glass nearer to the edge of the table for more water
            - Usually need to walk to the waiter station when they deliver dirty utensils

            4 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              -Turn a coaster over your beer glass = hipster signal to save your seat for after your smoke break

              1. re: Captain Beefhart

                But in an old-school New York bar (which are an endangered species) this means, "No more drinks for me tonight!"

                1. re: Captain Beefhart

                  Excellent! This is a new signal serving a new need. This is what's evolved now that smoking is forbidden in bars/restaurants and people have to leave their places to smoke.

                  1. re: nrxchef

                    I'm a tad beyond hipster but I've been using the coaster over the
                    glass thing since forever to indicate I'm coming back (from the
                    bathroom, the pool table, or in the old days the cigarette machine)
                    and please don't clear my glass or take my stool.

                    I can see how it's getting a bit more action these days, though.

              2. Lid of teapot open means "I need more hot water"