Saturday, April 29, 2017

We'll Always Have Lake Lucerne

The server came by again not long after setting down our plates. All chirpy.

"How's everything tasting for you tonight?"

I grinned just enough to send her away but not let any polenta leak out, while a small shudder of revulsion danced down my neck. But the moment passed, and I went back to my dinner conversation.

"That was an odd thing to say," I said. Dave nodded. Turns out it wasn't odd at all. It's the new script. It's a Thing. No matter where we go, the server is going to come by all chirpy and ask us how everything is tasting for us tonight. I do not like this.

Put a complaint like this on Facebook, though, and nobody will tell you to lighten up, get a grip, move on, mention First World Problems, take the stick out of your shorts, or suggest there are more important things to worry about, even though someone probably should. No. You will instead generate a thread of similar complaints. Everyone's bothered by something. Women don't like being called "Miss." Or "Ma'am," if the server is younger. Or older. Lots of people would prefer not to be called "Hon," unless it's coming from a verifiable Southern woman bearing pie. Many people object to being told something is "no problem." If I thought getting a little more water would be a problem, they huff, I wouldn't have asked.

Well, personally, if I need more water and the server says "No problem," I'm fine with that. I don't deconstruct it: it's an idiom. It's been eased out by "No worries," and something else will come down the idiomatic pike soon enough. I love "Hon." I guess I'm not as prickly as I could be. So what is my problem with "How's everything tasting for you tonight?" Why does that make me want to stab someone with my fork?

It's not because it's weird. It goes much deeper than that. I'm sensitive to words. And those words, in that order, make me squirmy. Squished-worm squirmy. Lanced-boil squirmy. I feel the same way about the words "soiled panties," and it's the words, not the items: "Dirty underpants" doesn't ripple my nape at all.

So how is a modern server supposed to navigate all our crotchets? Maybe it's up to us to file down our rough edges. Get a proper perspective. Fortunately for me, I have all sorts of perspective. I've got Lake Lucerne. As Dave says, "We'll always have Lake Lucerne."

Lake Lucerne was a dot on the map in northern California, and Dave noticed it when we were driving down to the wine country for our honeymoon. It was getting late. "That sounds pretty, and it's only twenty miles this direction," he said.

We found a motel room. They were still working on it. The bathroom was down to the bare studs in places, there wasn't a shower curtain, and wires protruded from the walls. It was too dark to see the Lake, if there was one, but there was a restaurant, and the lights were still on. "Are you open?" we called out to the waitress, a capable-looking older woman, who had already begun putting chairs up on the tables.

"Sure, hon, come on in! I'll be right with you." Well, that was a bit of luck. We examined the menu and in due time our waitress came back with plates of something like Chicken-Fried Steak stacked on her arm. "Where y'all from?" she wanted to know, swinging everything down in a jiffy. We were in good hands. We smiled. We felt grateful and chatty.

"Oof!" she said, stretching her back. "Hope y'all don't mind. My dogs is killin' me!" And she pulled up a chair and took off her shoes and peeled off her socks and put her feet right the hell up on the table next to the bun-basket and wiggled her toes. Yes, she did.

I'm not sure how everything was tasting for us that night, but there's no real way to ruin a marshmallow salad.

26 comments:

  1. Personally, I don't like the server coming back (sometimes mere seconds later, before I've even had a chance to taste anything) and asking how everything is at all. They usually ask when I'm in the process of chewing, so all I can do is nod, or when I'm in the middle of speaking to my dinner partner, which causes me to lose my train of thought. I'd much rather they just make themselves available by passing the table every now and then. If something is wrong, I'll let them know.

    On one memorable occasion, the server didn't come back just once to ask, but several times, and always when I was speaking. I told my friend that if she did that again, I would throw my plate against the wall and say, "It was wonderful, Sweetie. See? I've finished the plate." By that time, however, maybe my withering glare kept her from asking again.

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    1. I do appreciate the rare server who makes himself available readily but doesn't intrude too much. I'm okay with the intruding too, basically, but I REALLY HATE THOSE PARTICULAR WORDS PUT TOGETHER.

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  2. Oh God, Lake Lucerne! Did you ever go back?
    My complaint is when they don't write my order down and then come back a couple of times to make sure what I ordered.
    I haven't heard the tasting one, maybe you should ask them if they'd like to taste it.

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    1. That would be fun. Hold out your spoon and say "You tell me."

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    2. I like that idea :)
      The constant interruptions are starting to be the norm here too, when once upon a time you got your food and were left alone to enjoy it.

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  3. Perhaps the best response would be to flummox your server with a response such as "de gustibus non disputandum est"? You could have little cards printed up that say that, as well, so as not to interrupt the polenta...

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  4. I like your attitude: smart, sassy & forgiving.

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    1. I'm remarkably forgiving, but it's my natural forgetting that probably helps that.

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  5. oh my... what a good laugh for a Saturday morning!

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    1. Crap! I can only do that two days a week, unless you parcel them out.

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  6. Marshmallow salad? An alien concept to me. Marshmallows in hot chocolate yes. Salad?
    I really, really don't like it when the restaurant staff bow and scrape like windscreen wipers. Leave us to our meal. Please. We will let you know if there is a problem.

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    1. Marshmallow salad involves mayonnaise or Dream Whip and, preferably, colored baby marshmallows. Sometimes Jell-O.

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    2. We call it Five Cup Salad - 1 cup mandarin oranges, 1 cup pineapple chunks, 1 cup flaked coconut, 1 cup mini-marshmallows, and 1 cup sour cream. The sour cream is fine when you get all the rest in there. Substitute other fruit and canned fruit is fine. I've never heard of the mayo version!

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  7. Oh, the BEST in my experience was at a diner, where I'd ordered "multigrain pancakes." Well, I'm old enough to have eaten more than a few pancakes in my time, but these were odd. Flat with an odd aftertaste and sour, though not in a "sourdough" kind of way.

    When our waitress asked how everything was, I told her. Her response was unique in my experience: she took a fresh fork from the counter and cut a bite of my pancakes, from my plate. After chewing it she said, "That's just the way they taste."

    End of commentary.

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    1. I collect really bad waitress stories (I have three) and I would love to include yours. Holy shit.

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  8. I've crossed over into grumpy old lady territory for pretty much ANY phrase that's only been dreamed up because it's trendy or catchy to say. Just use normal words, people, and use as few of them as possible when you're - let's face it - interrupting my meal :)

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    1. I agree--but let's face it. That IS grumpy old lady territory. We've just gotta own it.

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    2. Now we need a beehive hairdo, a cane, and some of those knee-high pantihose that don't quite reach our hemline ...

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  9. Feet on the table right next to your food?? Urk!
    If anyone asks me how's everything tasting I might just tell them. Well, the bread's tasting just like bread, the jam is tasting like strawberries. The steak tastes just like beef and so on. I'd keep them there a good half hour just describing everything.

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    1. Oh, I like that! If they start asking how everything tastes here (Instead of the more generic "How is everything?"), I may well use this!

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  10. When I was in England, I figured that since they always seem so polite, waitstaff wouldn't say, "No problem." When I thanked a server for something, she said, "Not a problem." I give up. No "You're welcome," any longer. But I NEED to know what Hamanda's reaction to the waitress sharing her pancakes was!

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    1. Actually, I was simply thankful she'd used a clean fork.

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    2. I think I would have been too startled to respond or react!

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  11. What I hate the most is when a wait-person calls me "young lady", especially if they are noticeably younger than I am. Seriously? Also "are you still working on that?" -- since when is enjoying a meal out considered working?

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