I’ll Try the Steak; Hold the Small Talk

I realize that the ability to conduct small talk is a social skill. I wonder… what do they call “the inability to enjoy” it? Inhuman? Could it be a genetic trait? (I can picture my grandpa coming up with witty retorts (read: the straightforward kind of witty (OK enough with the parentheses)) that left many a person speechless.) Whatever it is, I have it.

Now, don’t get me wrong – almost every job I’ve ever held has required my friendly interaction with complete strangers. I would say that I am “above average” in the small talk department. It’s not pointless conversation as a whole that annoys me, it’s the apparently-inbred, forced, robotic, nonsensical vocabulary of one vocation in particular: waiters/waitresses.

Before any of you slam me for making fun of pointing out a few server idiosyncrasies, know that I worked in this industry for several years. I’ve been a busboy, a waiter, a server trainer, and even a manager – it’s very possible that I taught you how to do your job. Keeping that in mind, here are a few rules to follow that will ensure the continuation of a long-standing tradition in the restaurant industry: annoying small talk[1]. I may or may not be guilty of some of the things you are about to read.

♦ Rule #1: Make sure that, when you come to my table, you tell me that you’re going to be taking care of me today (more on the word today later). I, as a stranger in your building, am probably very nervous. It’s comforting to know that if anything happens, you’re going to be there for me no matter what. What a relief! I can finally relax and eat, which is what I was hoping for.

♦ Rule #2: It’s important that you are honest with me from the moment I take a seat in your section; make sure that I understand our relationship will be over almost as quickly as it’s about to begin. Leading me on could cost you money. You can impress this upon me by simply using the word today, over and over. Examples: From Rule #1 – “I’ll be taking care of you today.” “How are you doing today?” “Can I start you off with something to drink today?” This will make it clear to me that you don’t really care if I’m going to be hungry or thirsty tomorrow. The time is now and I need to enjoy this moment while it lasts. By doing this, you are not only going to quiet my growling stomach, but you’re also teaching me one of life’s lessons. That should be worth an extra dollar at the very least.

♦ Rule #3: Also known as, “The For-Ya Rule of Five.” Confused? It’s simple. Try to end as many questions as possible with the prepositional phrase for ya[2]. Examples: “What can I get for ya?” “Can I get that out of your way for ya?” “Can I get anything else for ya?” “Can I rub your back for ya?[3]” This lets me know that you are paying extra attention to my needs, and tells anyone else within an earshot of your voice that you are not talking to them.

♦ Rule #4: Any question that you don’t end with the words for ya (which must be done at least five times, hence the name of Rule #3) or today must be completed with the word or, but make sure you don’t offer the second choice that or so obviously indicates. This will leave me momentarily confused and forever-wondering what the other choice might have been. It’s also very important that your voice trails off into oblivion. Following this rule will make you seem secretive and mysterious, and will surely make me want to leave you extra tip money in the hopes that you might open up to me. Examples: “Would you like some more to drink, or…?” “Does everything taste OK, or…?” “Do you need a box, or…?” I still wonder what the other container-choices are for taking home leftovers.

♦ Rule #5: There is one way, and one way only, to ask me if I will be ordering dessert: “Did you save room for dessert?” (It’s optional, but not necessary, to incorporate Rule #3 into this Rule.) Asking me for dessert in this way shows me what an incredible sense of humor you have. You watched me stuff myself silly in true American fashion for forty-five minutes, and only afterwards did you let me know that I could have had something else, something sweet and delicious, had I monitored my intake a bit more carefully. My answer, of course, will be “No,” causing you no extra work whatsoever. What it will do, however, is cause us to share a laugh and smile. I will feel closer to you than ever at this point – how can I not be even more generous with my gratuity?!

♦ Rule #6: If your server is extremely hot, all other rules are thrown out the window. Her small talk is never annoying, no matter how stupid or robotic or forced. It’s cute and endearing, and she probably wants you. She now has permission to speak in Pig Latin if she so chooses[4].

Footnotes

[1]Including, but not limited to: bad grammar, bad jokes, bad breath, or just plain stupidity.

[2]Using “ya” in place of “you” shows that you are very casual, laid-back, and chill. It makes me feel like we are friends.

[3]This one hasn’t actually happened yet, but one can only dream.

[4]Ouyay obablypray illstay on’tway etgay ay ackrubbay.

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4 Comments

Filed under Food, Funny, humor, Language, Life, Restaurants

4 responses to “I’ll Try the Steak; Hold the Small Talk

  1. Allison and I especially enjoyed the waiter who told us right off the bat that he had gall stones, and they hurt. Nothing gets the appetite going like a stranger’s stones. Re #6, a hot chick’s stones would have been all right to talk about.
    Great post! I’m linking to you.

    Thanks Matt! I also like when, after asking how I’m doing and I return the favor, they let me know how tired they are and that they’re trying to get out of there. Nothing like pressuring me to hurry up and eat quickly.

    Re: the stones – They wouldn’t be alright to talk about if they were added after the fact, if you know what I’m saying.

  2. Great Post!

    We once had a waitress at a TGI Friday’s on her first day. She was great, but the manager kept coming to our table every 5 minutes to ask us if she was doing okay.

    I recently went to a Japanese restaurant and the exact same thing happened to me – new server/great service, but the manager was standing nearby almost the entire night just staring at him/us. It did become a bit of distraction. More often than not, you’ll get really great service from someone who is relatively new to the job. He/she usually has not been jaded by all of the long hours, bad tippers, and rude customers. I guess good things don’t always come to those who wait.

  3. Red

    My brain hurts.
    I just want to eat.

    Well, what can I get for ya today?

  4. So funny!

    From past painful experiences where waiters and waitresses alike have stopped to tell us their life histories, we have implemented a new rule for dining.

    Never ask a question unless you want an answer.

    Acceptable question to ask your server: “What is the soup of the day?”

    Never ask, “Would you recommend it?”

    First question will be answered in a few words. Second question will lead to a barrage of reasons why said soup is or is not acceptable based on the relationship the server has with the chef, the server’s allergies, the server’s memories of trying the same soup while visiting her aunt in Ohio, and the server’s spouse’s preference.

    Never answer a question with a polite question of your own, such as:

    Server: How are you today?
    You, being polite: I am fine. How about yourself?

    Unless I am lonely, and want my server to pull up a chair and tell me how much their life sucks, I avoid all non-food questions.

    Completely agree – well said!

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