Another outstanding example of customer-service memory was at The Oberoi in New Delhi. I was there to meet one set of people, and in the evening serendipitously ran into a friend from home — she was treating herself to a little luxury before embarking upon a walking tour of Nepal — along with her friends. I joined their party and ordered a gin and tonic (you have to: the quinine in the tonic has strong anti-mosquito properties; at least, that is what I always tell myself).
The waiter demanded precision in the ordering. Ice? No Ice? What type of gin? What type of tonic? Were olives required in any number? A slice of lemon? Lime?
Two weeks later, I was back at The Oberoi to meet a completely different set of people. I entered the same bar for a pre-work meeting: think laptops and ziggurats of paper. I was negotiating my way over to my colleague with my laptop and papers when my waiter spotted me from 100 paces. “Hello there! Would you like to have a Tanqueray and tonic with no ice and a slice of lime? Also, no olives?”
Indeed I would.
My business colleague, who had no inkling of our previous acquaintance, scrutinised me closely to see if the bar order was tattooed on my forehead.
“Some waiters,” I said, “just have an uncannily spot-on instinct for people’s anti-malarial requirements, don’t you find?”
Well done, that waiter.