RayB and Bill,
Originally Posted by I
>> 4. As soon as you sit down, open your serviette ("napkin") so it's folded in half and put it on your lap. Don't wait for the waiter to pick it up and hand it to you. If you leave the table before the end of the meal for any reason, place your serviette on the seat of your chair -- NOT on the table -- until you return
Originally Posted by RayB
I have to disagree with part of this one. If you leave the table, IMO, you should NOT place the napkin in the seat of the chair. You have been sitting on that seat and IMO it would not be appropriate to place a napkin there. Place in on the arm or the chair, if you had one or on the back of the chair. Sanitary reasons. I am open for discussion on this one.
Originally Posted by Bill
While I think it's a good thread and worth reading, I'm afraid you are wrong on leaving a napkin on the seat of the chair. RayB is right on this one.
Check out: www.findalink.net
This point usually should be moot because one normally should take care of head calls and other personal needs before sitting down so that one does not leave the table during the meal. If one does need to visit the head or to leave the table for some other reason during the meal, though, the proper place to put one's serviette, or napkin, is on one's chair. The serviette goes back on the table only when one leaves the table at the end of the meal. (Placing the serviette back on the table actually is a "service cue" that signals the busboy or the assistant waiter to clear your place because you are not returning to the table.)
There are two reasons for leaving the serviette on the chair rather than on the table if you leave the table temporarily.
>> 1. From a sanitary standpoint, a serviette that has been in contact with your mouth might come into contact with, and thus spread bacteria to, the tablecloth and other items on the table that the waiter must handle before the end of the meal, with the possibility of transmission through the waiter's hands or the other items to other passengers.
>> 2. From a standpoint of social acceptability, a serviette can become quite unsightly -- especially if smeared with cocktail sauce, tomato sauce, and other colorful fluids that might get onto your hands or your lips in the course of eating. If placed on the chair during your temporary absence, it's out of sight of your tablemates.
The item about serviettes ("napkins") in Bill's link specifically says that one should leave it on the table when one leaves the table at the end of the meal -- and this is absolutely correct. Of course, the underlying presumption is that the table finishes the meal together so everybody is leaving the table at that time. I would add that one should just gather the serviette in the middle (it's easy to do this with one hand by starting at the edges or corners nearest one's knees and working up toward one's waist, let it double over one's thumb, and set it on the table. Correctly, one neither crumples nor refolds one's serviette.