Familiarity and its offspring


Then seat yourself

The sign as you enter the restaurant says, “Wait to be seated.” So we waited last night until the young hostess appeared. She asked if we would mind using a booth and then pointed behind us and said, “Over there, it’s the only one open. You’ll figure it out.” I suppose I should have been flattered that she believed a woman my age recognized what an empty booth looked like and wouldn’t accidently sit in some gentleman’s lap and complain about the lumpy cushions. After we sat down, my brother, who is ten years younger, suggested we trip her the next time she walked by. When she asked why, he would say, “You’ll figure it out.” He refrained.

Then our nice young waiter brought me some bruschetta chicken that looked like it had crawled onto the plate by itself and collapsed just at the edge from all that effort. “It kinda slid on the plate on the way over, but it’s okay; it’s still good,” he explained, but without the punctuation. The little icicles of cheese dripping slowly over the edge of the plate gave it a somewhat festive look, but Christmas is over, so it didn’t make me feel jolly.

The restaurant, named after a piece of fruit and some insects, serves average food at average prices to average people, so I wasn’t expecting to be greeted in French or have a personal sommelier. But it was so informal that I expected I would be asked to take my plate to the kitchen and wipe the table before I left. If I wanted to be treated like that, I would have stayed at home.

When my children were small, we didn’t want them to call adults by their first name without using a Mr. for men and Miss for women. It’s a Southern thing. When we lived in Japan, and one of the children used Miss in front of a married woman’s first name, the woman patiently explained to that child that Miss was only used for unmarried women. The woman was American, but she was not from the South, so it may have sounded strange. Eventually, she warmed up to it and grew to like it.

I like it, too. Formality is the fence around my house. It’s not so high that you can’t see over it, but it’s there. On the gate is my name: my full name. If the gate’s unlocked, you can ring the bell or knock on the front door. I’ll invite you in; I’m on the friendly side. Get to know me well enough, and I’ll tell you to just open the gate, and if the door to the house is open, walk in and make yourself at home.

But if you have never once been around the block, and then climb over my fence, barge into my house and help yourself to my food or my chocolate and talk to me like we go to junior high school together, we are gonna have words, and it will not be purty. You can run, but you cannot hide ’cause I have a broom, and I know how to ride it. When I catch you, you had better be prepared to call me  ma’am.

This is a rant.

(Photo on loan from: http://the-travel-garden.blogspot.com)

20 thoughts on “Familiarity and its offspring

  1. Thank you, ma’am. I am amazed at what passes for professionalism in the service industry these days. I am not from the South, but I live there now, and I very much enjoy being called Miss K8edid. What I don’t enjoy is being called hon, sweetie, or sugar…

  2. I blame texting. Folks are so used to communicating without having to use vowels. How can we expect them to add an extra “Miss” or “M’am” or “Sir”?

  3. Fun post! I like your humor in getting your point across. Purty made me laugh – reminded me of my sister and I talking about family jargon when we were young. Purt near – as in “we are purt near there” brought gales of laughter from my sister and I. My daughter, looking puzzled, ask if we’d spell “purt near”. My sister passed a little over two years ago and in addition to being a fun read, your post brought back a special memory. Thanks!

  4. It’s the same ignorance that had a waitress greeting me and my 90-year-old aunt with “Hi, guys, what can I get for you?”. And we were called “guys” twice more before we left. I wanted to trip her, too.

    • Sadly “guys” is ubiquitous. People are using language to walk in your front door without knocking, and I don’t like it. Maybe we need those old-fashioned calling cards with our formal name embossed that we hand to the server. Or have vocabulary cards with proper greetings on them that we hand the server and ask to read before we follow them to the table.

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