Ask The Salty Waitress: What do I do with my used tissues at a restaurant?

Photo: Estradaanton (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressThe Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.

Dear Salty, It’s that time of year when I get my first of many colds. (I am the dreaded Office Sniffler for most of the winter.) My question is what to do with tissues I use to blow my nose when I go out to eat. I don’t usually carry a bag, and I don’t like stuffing them in my pockets, if I even am wearing something with pockets. Is it really that bad to leave tissues on the table, even if I put them on top of my plate so no one has to touch them? I’d leave other dirty napkins, so maybe it’s not as bad as I think? Help?

Sniffler

Dear Sniffler,

Do not leave your nasty snot rags for servers or bussers to clean up, please and thank you. I know it might take a little extra effort on your part to just… not leave your tissues around, but it’s the only decent thing to do to spare other humans from touching your biological waste. Better yet: Stay home when you’re really sick. It’s why delivery pho exists.

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But if that’s not an option, there are better ways to go about dealing with your runny nose than leaving used, snotty tissues for your servers. Would you ever expect a friend to pick up your dirty tissues from the table after a dinner party? Then don’t expect us to. Three options that will make your server not hate you:

  • Blow your nose in the bathroom. This also a courtesy to your fellow diners, who don’t want to hear you honking away two feet from their dinner. Excuse yourself to the bathroom to blow your nose, then throw away your tissue there. Wash your hands.
  • Put the used tissues in your bag. I know you said you don’t carry one. Maybe you could start.
  • What’s so wrong with your pockets? Put a few tissues in there if you must, then throw them away in the bathroom before leaving the restaurant. Again, wash your damn hands.

I just know some of you are going to want to argue that a used tissue isn’t as gross as I’m making it out to be, or that servers don’t actually have to touch it to get rid of it, or that a person could just wrap the dirty tissue in a paper napkin.

None of these are valid, because it’s a respect thing. You would not believe some of the straight-up disgusting crap people leave behind on their plates, like it’s not an actual human being who has to clean that up. Servers and bussers aren’t going to say anything to you, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t kill us a little inside when people treat us this way. Most restaurant workers have no paid sick leave, so getting sick can be the difference between making rent one month and not. Do us a favor and throw your germs away yourself.

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Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com

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