The restaurant near Utama Bowling with an impressive black and white logo had been on my list for a long time. On a recent Saturday, we chose a table on the veranda to enjoy the cool breeze. A couple of waiters moved in and out of the veranda but they did not notice us. So we moved to a table indoors. The waiters were all around us serving and clearing the plates on other tables but they did not notice us. We tried to look at them, put on a smile on our face so that they notice us but essentially, we did not exist for them. “Something must be amiss,” I thought and looked around. On another empty table, I saw an order form. OK, now I get it: You need to fill in your order then perhaps then they will notice it, I told my friend. Now my friend took over. Holding the order-form in one hand, my friend kept turning his body, using his other elbow as a pivot in the direction of moving waiters trying to attract their attention. We were still invisible to them. It was 12 noon and our stomachs began making noises. Final shot: I snatched the order form from my friend’s hand and took it to the cashier. As I handed him the form and turned away, I heard the cashier saying, “you need to pay first.” I see that’s how this restaurant works! Had it put up a sign or trained the waiters to guide the customers, we would not felt so lost and spent half an hour waiting for someone to take down our order. I took out my credit card to pay only to be informed that I cannot use my credit card since my order was less than $20. We had $12 in cash with us and with that we could either drink or eat. Not do both. I asked the cashier to charge the fee for using a credit card but she could not help. She said though it is possible she is not the owner there and she cannot take that decision. We were in that restaurant more than half an hour but at the end of it came out of without eating and drinking.
To withdraw cash or head home? Both options were not mutually exclusive because for both we had to go Bandar. Brunei has 100,000 families and 120,000 cars. That is 1.2 cars per family. Come 12pm to 2pm, almost all the cars are out on streets mostly for one purpose: to drive their children back home or to afternoon school sessions. Bandar has six major schools so the otherwise empty streets in Bandar get jammed with cars in those two hours. We got caught up in slow traffic. To get going to Bandar back to withdraw cash and heading to another restaurant in Gadong was a test for our stomachs. It took us 25 minutes to drive 3 km from Bandar to The Arch in Gadong.
The restaurant we chose wasn’t full, many tables were unoccupied. The table had an order form with a pencil and a bell to ring. We filled in our order (they don’t want us to pay upfront like the previous restaurant). Here we chose seats so close to the main counter that we were right in the sight of every waiter who passed us. 15 minutes after our order was taken, we began looking at waiters faces expectantly. A couple of them evaded our glances. When one could not, he smiled and read the copy of the order on our table and went away. We got our first drink of the day finally. We finished with coffee, still our order was nowhere in sight. A couple of waiters came to our tables read the order and went away, as if I had ordered something no human being ever had ordered. When we waited there for another 30 minutes. By then, it was late enough that I couldn’t eat — I had to go to the gym in another hour. I asked the waiter to pack up my food. Again, he read the copy of my order on my table. It was past 2 pm when he handed over a parcel of mee rebus and chicken porridge to take away.
Cashier: Sorry Sir
Me: it’s okay. You should inform that the order will take time.
Me: it’s okay. But you should inform that the order will take some time.
Since I did not want to hear repeated sorry, I did not say anything and I left the restaurant.
I went in to eat at 12 o’clock but I got my food in my stomach at 4.30 pm. Next time, I’ll always have cash.