Has this happened to you? We’re sitting in the boisterous interior of Sushi Totoro, on the Westside of Santa Cruz, winding down a dinner of saba and hamachi, listening to Bob Marley. All was well. But just as I picked up my last piece of nigiri, chopsticks still in my hand, my wooden plate was grabbed and whisked away. I mean while I was still chewing! No one asked me if I was “still workin’ on that.” No one inquired. No nothing. Just – whish! – the plate was yanked off the table.

Two words for that: how rude! No, you may not simply jerk the plate away from a diner. You ask first whether the diner is finished. If the reply is yes, THEN you jerk the plate off the table. Operant term here is “you jerk.” Back at the sushi place – another server approached my companion and tried to do the same thing. Hey, the place wasn’t packed – so it wasn’t as though we were being rushed out to make room for people waiting to be seated. But my companion literally held on to his plate and said, firmly but nicely, “no, I am NOT finished.” It was a sweet moment — and a blow for dining freedom.

Dear Servers: please do not reach for diners’ plates until they indicate by any number of codes, conventions or even words, that they are indeed finished with the dish. Remember: rudeness is rewarded by tiny tips.