6: Keeping Tradition Alive or Our Last Visit With the Worst Waitress in the World

The only person I’ve met in 32 years who does not like Dave.

We’ve fallen into a Sheldon Cooper-esque pattern of doing the same thing the same night of every week.

At first we laughed at this The Big Bang Theory sitcom character’s designated hamburger night, pizza night, comic book night, and then we immediately moved to adopt it. There is no explaining this.

And so we now have Lollipop, Hamburger and Cheesecake days (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), while Saturday is reserved for our Wretched Waitress event. At Joran’s, a waterfront restaurant with the best seating to be found in Switzerland’s Mitteland lake district, is succulent beef tenderloin with red pepper sauce, exquisite pasta, fabulous local fish and the best ice cream in Switzerland.

Dave,  about 20 minutes after we had finished eating and were still waiting for the bill.

Balancing out this ‘best of’ list is a woman who may be the worst waitress in the world. We have eaten at enough restaurants in both hemispheres to hazard this assumption.

She refuses to accept our orders in English, French or even the universally accepted restaurant sign language, which is comprised of us pointing to items on the menu.

She growls at us in German, employing tones that remind us less of Hogan’s Heroes and more of those flecked Second World War newsreels.

And then she makes us wait. And wait. And wait. This happens every week, and yet we keep going back. She has become our grumbly Germanic aunt, whose company we enjoy if only because we can rely upon her uniformly dour countenance. She mystifies us.

Last week, she told me ‘no more French, only German.’

Our waitress (white top) flees into the restaurant after I wave her over.

I would like to report that my feeble attempts at German were welcomed with some coaching from her, but instead she glared at me as I dragged out my German vocabulary (five words). And then, because I was flummoxed, I sprayed out Spanish. All my friends who have been subjected to my so-called Spanish can tell you this will only make matters worse.

This week, the mere sight of us caused her to shake her head in disgust. She huffed through a punishing food-ordering spectacle, then proceeded to serve everyone else, even those who came long after us.

Dave taking a nap while waiting for our bill. Will we ever see our wretched waitress again?

While we waited to order our dessert, she engaged in a spirited and joyful conversation with two German ladies seated near us, and then when I waved to get her attention, she spun away and disappeared into the restaurant.

I wish I was exaggerating about this.

Then we waited an interminable time before we finally got up and went inside to pay our bill. She punched our numbers into the cash till, then before giving us the bill turned to pour two glasses of water, then dump them in the sink, then turn and give us the bill. I asked her if she spoke any English at all.

“Nien!” she exclaimed. She had not directly looked at us for over an hour. That is some feat when serving a meal and taking payment.  I tried to say good-bye, to let her know we’re returning to Canada. It seems wrong to not mark the occasion of our last visit by letting her know that her long period of torment is coming to a close.

That was yesterday. It is now Starbucks Sunday, and we are about to make the two-block stroll there for some cheesecake, which the staff say is specially shipped in from Pennsylvania. That is a good thing. We need a little of that good’ol American home-taste to wash away the emotional wreckage left over from Wretched Waitress day.

For those wondering why we kept going back there: In Swiss restaurants, you can get great service often, mediocre service occasionally and  bad service rarely, but service that falls within the “hostile” category is something to behold. That, and the fabulous ice cream is why we keep going back.

If you go: Skip the tarte flambe’ and order a simple ham, salami and cheese sandwich which is served on thick slabs of fresh-baked bread.

The chocolate, pistachio and banana ice cream flavors are exceptional and often served on a bed of sliced bananas or crushed pistachios. For supper, you cannot go wrong with the beef tenderloin, which the Swiss boast is pasture-fed and antibiotic/chemical-free. The restaurant specializes in fresh local strawberries, ice cream and cream desserts, but that is recommended only when the season peaks, usually in early-to-mid June.

Do not fear the wait-staff. But for this one waitress, the rest speak at least some English, are very friendly and competent. 

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68: Swiss Fish

This fish must be depressed.

If there is something the Swiss like more than rules, it is making sure that everyone adheres to them, and this is why our hotel staff dare not put a fish in the large glass bowl that adorns the hotel’s front desk.

Pet fish can only be kept in aquariums with corners as it is deemed cruel to consign fish to a life of endless circles with no beginning and no end. I suppose corners might prevent the fish from falling into some kind of existentialist funk, but really? No fishbowls allowed at all? It seems a bit extreme, so I suggested to the staff that they put a fish in the bowl anyway (with water, of course).

It turns out that little rebellion against authority is a no-go. Someone could call the Fish Help-Line (I made that name up) and there would be officers at the desk to the rescue the fish and apply penalties.

Ah, there is nothing so refreshing as living in a society of efficient informers. It reminds me of  Victoria, British Columbia where neighbours are encouraged to tattle on one another to the local government for the slightest thing (using the wrong pesticide or any pesticide at all, watering the lawn outside of the regulated hours or with a non-approved nozzle) and feel quite self-righteous about it.

It is a show of bureaucracy gone overboard, which is one of Europe’s biggest drawbacks. A German friend, for example, migrated to Canada partly because she tired of applying for permits for the simplest activities, such as painting her front door. Apparently, she would have to get her chosen colour approved beforehand. Here in Switzerland, foreigners bringing in pets have to present them to a veterinarian for inspection and register them in the country’s pet database within 10 days.

It’s a little odd for a landlocked country full of farmland where loose dogs could roam over the border in massive rabid packs before anyone would take notice. It is not as if this is Australia or England.

I could be wrong about this, but when local government concerns itself with the shape of aquariums or regulates twist versus spring-lever nozzles, it is a sign of municipal mental meltdown.