Last weekend, Brad and I found ourselves at a Nice Restaurant. You know the kind – white tablecloths, dim lighting, the soft clinking of glassware, menus that aren’t encased in a plastic splash-guard... ultra-classy. We were there at the behest of his parents, who had sent us a lovely card and gift right after we got engaged and exhorted us to “Go do something beautiful together!” (I suspect that truly ultra-classy people would have gone to the opera; we took it as a direct order to stuff our faces.) (My future in-laws are awfully sweet, by the way.)
So there we were, nicely settled in, our elbows resting comfortably on the pristine tablecloth, when a pleasant-looking waitress came swooping over to take our order.
And then, things got weird.
Admittedly, I’m not exactly up on waitressing trends these days – it’s been a good four years since I worked in a restaurant, and perhaps protocol has changed. Regardless of the incentive, though, one thing was obvious from the get-go: Our waitress was really, really excited to be there.
“Are you guys ready?” she asked, bouncing a little and looking from me to Brad and back with unbridled anticipation. She reminded me of a racehorse at the gate.
I was immediately nervous.
“Er… yes,” I said. “I’d like the…” I looked down at the menu to be sure… “Bacon-wrapped monkfish.”
“Great,” said the waitress, just a little too forcefully, and smiled even harder.
“And a glass of pinot grigio?” I said. It came out in the form of a question. All her smiling was freaking me out.
“That’s just terrific,” said the waitress, this time with even more feeling.
I looked at her. She beamed back at me. The whites of her eyes were showing.
“Um, okay… and we’d like to split the quail, as an appetizer—”
Across the table, Brad was looking amused. The waitress turned her full attention on him.
“And how about you?” she asked.
“I’ll have a glass of cabernet—“
Now we were both staring at her. She grinned back and nodded encouragingly, manically, the way that your second-grade teacher does when the stupidest kid in class keeps stumbling over the word “hippopotamus”.
“Um, and the braised short rib.”
The waitress looked directly at him with eyes full of passion, her head nodding with almost violent approval, and said, “YES. GO FOR IT!!!”
And she left.
Brad watched her go and then said, “I guess we have great menu skills.”
But really, do we? Or was something more sinister afoot? Maybe she was just doing it because she has to. Maybe human beings, already approval-seekers, now faced with a neverending barrage of unwanted advice on what we should and shouldn’t put in our mouths, have just become so insecure about food that we actually need this sort of rabid affirmation from waiters that we’re doing okay for ourselves.
It seems like a good idea.
I’ll have to ask my waitress what she thinks.