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by Abigail Van Buren

Diner Resents Getting the Rush When Server Buses the Table

DEAR ABBY: When my partner and I eat at a restaurant, the server often clears my partner's plate before I am finished. I am not a slow eater, but I generally finish after she does.

When the server removes her plate, I'm left feeling like I have to rush to finish my meal and that our "shared dinner time" is over.

Am I wrong to feel that it's rude to take away the dishes before everyone at the table is done? As a hostess at home, I wait until the entire table is finished eating before I clear. On the other hand, just about every place where we eat out does this, so maybe I should get used to it. What do you think? -- SUE IN GLOUCESTER, MASS.

DEAR SUE: Here in the United States, it is common for servers to take the empty plates from the table. In Europe, diners often linger over a meal, enjoying coffee -- a liqueur, perhaps -- and good conversation.

How does your partner feel about having her plate cleared? If she would prefer that it remain while you finish your dinner, all she needs to do is say to the server, "Please leave it until Sue is done." If she's unwilling to do that, then I think you'll have to get used to it.