It used to be that when a waitress greeted us with “Hi, my name is Ashley and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.” I would bristle. Damn! She can tell that I have iron-poor blood and that I am kind of depressed!
Recently though, I have learned to embrace Ashley’s offer, because on second thought, it would be nice to be taken care of for a change. If Ashley has my back, then why not put my feet up and kick back into a pint or two?
With Ashley by my side, I could get hammered, and then summon her after I realize, too late, that I had better eat something STAT. As promised, Ashley would materialize out of nowhere and efficiently take my order for Eggplant Rollatini even though I might actually be slurring my words and asking her for “‘plant rollerthingy.” She would laugh at my silly jokes, and then, after holding my hair back in the ladies room, discreetly comp me some club soda and Tylenol.
I haven’t asked My Royal Consort what he envisions when Ashley announces that she will be taking care of him, but after consulting with some of my guy friends about what their expectations are when a hot young waitress announces that she will be taking care of them, all I can say is that I am still reeling from their revelations.
Before the Ashleys were forced to become caretakers and sex workers, they were straw bosses and preschool teachers as evidenced by “Are you still workin’ on that?”, a question frequently posed by a perky Ashley when most of the table has finished eating, but one diner’s status is still a little ambiguous.
The question, delivered in a tone of voice and a pitch normally reserved for toddlers and the developmentally disabled, is rendered even more Romper Room by substituting the pronoun “you” with “we,” to form the linguistic abomination “Are we going to be having dessert tonight?”
That is when we know that the restaurant and I will soon be parting ways.
This trend is proving problematic for our family. My Royal Consort and the kids brace themselves as the waiter or waitress greets us, and only relax after that first hurdle is cleared without incident. By the time she returns with our drinks, the tension has built up again, and becomes overwhelming as we get close to the end of our meal. “Will she ask that terrible question that makes mom get that dopey smirk and faraway look in her eyes?” they wonder. “Will we have to stop eating here, too? Please, pleases, please Ashley, just this once, don’t ask if we are ‘still workin!'”
Recently, I was asked if I was “still chewin'” to which I replied, “Yes, and if you say that ever again, I will soon be a-spewin’, you ignorant, obsequious moron!”
I didn’t actually say that to the nice waiter. That would have been rude. Instead, I just got that dazed, disbelieving look on my face, put my fork down and quietly sobbed into my napkin. How can I help these people, I wondered.
I feel it is my duty to gently point out to the fresh faced young waiters and waitresses that they are very misguided when they speak to their customers as if they child actors on Noodle & Doodle.
Just as it is momentarily mortifying to tell people when they have spinach in their teeth, they are grateful that someone cares enough to tell them. Likewise, if a friendly person like me gently pointed out to Ashley that most diners are both potty trained and handy with a knife and fork, she would only feel bad for a moment or two.
The question remains—how to deliver the message?
Countless times, over the course of a meal, I have resolved to set Ashley/Kelsey/Haley straight, but then I end up slinking away without saying anything. My grandmother always counseled “there is more room on the outside than on the inside.” When I finally run out of room, horrible things are going to shoot out of me in a volcanic spray of hyperbolic sarcasm. It’s just a matter of time.
So far, the only answer that consistently meets my criteria for efficiency, tact and kindness is a printed card that could be left discreetly with the tip. The message, beautifully typeset and wreathed by delicate flowers would read as follows:
“May you take kindly advice from a well meaning stranger and consign the words ‘Are you still workin’ on that?’ to the dustbin of recent, misguided history. May you abandon the practice of offering hand jobs to those who would sup at your table, and may you diligently strive to address all but the littlest ones as adults.”