Opinion: Divas won’t let Burnaby servers distance thanks to pepper craving

Chris Campbell

What does pepper have to do with COVID-19?

Well, you’d be surprised. And appalled, if you have an ounce of humanity.

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During my recent interviews with dozens of servers and restaurant owners in Burnaby during the past weeks, one issue came up.

Servers and social distancing. Many restaurants have worked hard to keep customers distant from each other, including adding new outdoor patio space and plastic or Plexiglas dividers between tables.

But for servers, that’s difficult because they need to get the plates of food and drinks to the actual table. That means violating the six-foot recommendation of health professionals depending on the size of tables.

Some table set ups allow the servers to deliver food and drinks at one side of the table, leaving diners to slide them over themselves. For others, it’s just not possible, but people do their best.

One way restaurants are limiting close contact is by getting rid of that dining tradition of servers grinding pepper on a customer’s food.

Instead, I’ve been slid over packets of salt and pepper. I’m cool with that.

Some, however, aren’t.

A few servers have told me about how some diva customers “insist” that the pepper be freshly ground onto their food.

“I dropped off the salt and pepper packets and this woman looks at me and demands the pepper be freshly ground,” a server at a chain restaurant told me. “She said, ‘I don’t like it any other way.’ I explained that we were no longer doing that. She said if I expected a tip then I would ‘find a way.’ So I dug up a pepper grinder and she grinned while I did it. I was worried she would complain to my manager and I really need this job.”

Ridiculous. Outrageous. Incredible.

If you’ve ever eaten at Atlas Steak and Fish in Burnaby, you’ll know that their pepper grinder is about three-feet long so, yeah, maybe that would work to keep your distance.

But for others, please, stop acting like this. Social distancing is recommended for a reason.

“Physical distancing is limiting close contact with other people to slow the spread of an infectious disease,” says the BCCDC. “An example of physical distancing is keeping about two metres (six feet) or the length of a queen-sized bed apart from others. Physical distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak. Even though we are not sick, we need to make changes to our everyday routines to stop the spread of germs between people.”

The BCCDC also says there are many ways to practice physical distancing:  

  • Stay home as much as possible 
  • Use technology to keep in touch with friends and family 
  • Host virtual play dates for your kids 
  • Use food delivery services or online shopping
  • Exercise at home or outside alone
  • Work from home and conduct virtual meetings

In public

  • Keep about two metres (six feet) or the length of a queen-sized bed apart when possible
  • Keep your hands at your sides
  • Greet others with a wave instead of a handshake, a kiss or a hug
  • Shop or take public transportation during off-peak hours when possible
  • Avoid crowded places and all in-person gatherings of any size are strongly discouraged.
  • Limit contact with people at higher risk of getting sick (e.g. older adults and those in poor health).

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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