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2006-01-29 - 3:44 p.m.

...ordering etiquette..

Today I seem to be enveloped in ennui (a rather dangerous condition if I am to believe Edward Gorey..). I woke up late with a scratchy throat and an achey neck, and the ever-so-slight sensation that there is a truck on my head...

Hmm. After typing that, it sounds a lot worse than it feels. But the sheer greyness of the day means that I have not been able to coax myself out of my bed (I am typing from under the covers.) I don't think it's fatal. I'm just being lazy, and the purring cat at my feet and the soothing Stefan Grappelli / Oscar Peterson selection isn't doing much to make me stir. The selection has just switched to Joni Mitchell's melancholy "Rainy Night" which I love for its evocative story painting...nope, still not moved to move. But now that the song has ended, my mind is playing "The Priest" - the next song on the "Ladies.." album. Alas, the radio programmer has moved on - he's clearly touched by the day's melancholy as well, as I'm hearing Nancy LaMott crooning with a sad longing: "Oh why is it that I have Spring fever when it isn't even Spring? I keeping wishing that I were somewhere else...It might as well be Spring."

Yesterday I had another visit from J - he popped by at about 4:30 in the afternoon, bringing with him a couple of movies and a cheerful attitude. We walked through the nearby crescents over to a nearby shopping mall to a local electronics megastore. We lasted there all of 30 minutes before the loud cacophonic booming of the tvs, dvds, movies, and stereos drove us on to the home furnishings store next store - this one packed with friendlier salespeople but an assaulting combination of air freshener products. Alas, they were missing the curtains I wanted, and ironically I left with a scented candle.

Members of the ADL were everywhere. ADL stands for "Anti Destination League" - J has a theory that this league exists and is responsible for a nationwide conspiracy to keep him from getting where he needs to go. Usually the ADL member activities involve slow driving old men in hats with earflaps, or little tourists ladies who have a knack for meandering back and forth across the sidewalk in front of you to keep you from passing, but ADL members come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. Apparently the ADL has recruited heavily and successfully in Queens shopping malls.

Anyway, we left without buying very much, and headed back to the main strip of Forest Hills for dinner. I took J to a wonderful French-Thai fusion restaurant. Now here is nail in the "old married couple" coffin. J takes FOREVER to order in a restaurant. That alone isn't a problem. But no matter what type of restaurant we enter, he always orders the SAME thing, whether it's on the menu or not. That in itself is not always a problem, but yesterday it drove me to distraction. After his fourth drawn out indirect question of the waitress (who was NOT a superb English speaker), I was rather embarrassed. The conversation went something like this (insert looonnng pauses between each of J's replies):

J: Does the Thai salad come with beef?
W: no..
J: do you have beef?
W: yes, we do..
J: do you have any kind of salad with beef?
W: we have a filet mignon with greens
J: no that's not right, unless you could put a thai salad sauce with that?
W: ummm, it's prepared with a different sauce..
J: so, it's not possible to get beef or chicken with a salad?
W: oh, I guess we could put some beef with the salad...
J: yes.
W: how do you want the beef?
J: what do you mean how do I want it?
W: how do want it cooked?
J: Oh. hmmmmm....

So this went on and on... the beef negotiation finally ended and then the CHEESE negotiation starts..

J: and does the Thai beef salad come with any fried goat cheese?
W: what? umm, no it doesn't.
J: oh.........well, can I get some fried goat cheese with the Thai beef salad?
W: ummm, I'm sorry sir we don't have fried goat cheese..
J: do you have any goat cheese?
W: no..we do have gorgonzola with our other salad
J (to me): what's gorgonzola again?"

(t interjects that it's a blue cheese..)

J:oh, I'm not fond of blue you have that 'other' cheese?
W: what cheese would that be, sir?
J: umm, hold on, I can't think of it. T, what's that 'other' cheese called again?

(t is slowly dying at the table here..)

J (brain whirring at top speed): umm, it's not cheddar...

At this point I sent the waitress away. It's one thing to ask for a side order of bread. Or a side order of ANYTHING. But this non-decision waffling negotiation was ENDLESS. The restaurant was packed, the waitress was not amused, and he just wasn't GETTING IT.

Okay, I have to admit that I wasn't really in the mood. I'm thinking this might be a hormonal thing - another time it might have been cute. And I was probably a little harsh on the guy with my reply, "J you are embarrassing me. Instead of ordering the same salad everywhere we go...why not have a little ADVENTURE and actually order something ON the menu? Something that this restaurant actually SPECIALIZES in making??" After a brief exclamation of cheese identification..."It was FETA! That's the cheese I wanted".. he replied that he always orders off the menu, but that this waitress seemed to be a little hostile about it.

Okay. Let's not get into the combination of Thai salad with grilled beef and feta cheese....But I thought the waitress was fine, albeit a little bit confused. I was just shocked to see someone elevate the simple process of ordering DINNER to the level of a real estate negotiation!

So here is the etiquette question of the week: Is it appropriate to order off the menu? If so, then what is the proper way to do it, and what are the limits?

(My answer: yes it is okay, but only if you can describe succinctly and simply. If you plan to submit an entirely new recipe to the chef, then you should go home.)

Anyway, the rest of the evening was fun - we walked back and watched the movie "The Iron Giant" - lovely little film. We had a good time discussing and laughing, and J left at the comfortable hour of midnight. He makes me crazy, but in a good way.

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