Here we are again, readers, for another futile attempt at restoring sanity, accuracy, and elegance to a society that is determined to continue circling the drain. And once again, the Curmudgeon is banging his head against the wall in frustration over yet another example of maddeningly inexplicable linguistics. This week's aberrations fall under a category I've named "waiterspeak."
Many weeks ago, I wrote about the idiotic new way that counter staff have begun summoning their customers: "The following?" Composing that blog entry did nothing to assuage my aggravation—I remain both baffled and irritated. But at least it recruited a few fellow offense-takers, so I know I'm not alone in my wholly justifiable crankiness.
But what about establishments where you get to actually sit down and have someone wait on you? Well, that circumstance presents a whole different set of mysteries. Why, for example, has the perfectly sensible question, "How is your meal?" become "How is everything tasting?" It's a question that comes very near to suggesting that the food itself might have an ability to taste things. Of course, that couldn't be what they mean. "How is everything tasting?" provokes pondering . . . and parsing. I believe they're asking whether we are enjoying the things that are in the process of being tasted by us. If so, that's a rather awkward way of asking what we think of our meals.
And what about the recitation of the nightly specials?
Waiter using English: "Tonight's special is a seared pork loin, served in a basil and butter sauce, topped with shiitake mushrooms and served with garlic roasted purple potatoes and asparagus, for $18.00." (I just made that up while writing. Now I'm hungry and wondering where I can order such a dish.)
Waiter using waiterspeak: "Tonight's special is going to be a seared pork loin, and that's going to be served in a basil and butter sauce, and the chef will be topping that with shiitake mushrooms, and that's going to be coming with garlic roasted purple potatoes and asparagus, and that's going to be costing $18.00."
OK, I'll bite: when? At what point are these things going to occur? When is the pork loin "going to be served" in the basil and butter sauce? Are you going to alert us? Will there be some sort of announcement?
I tell you, I'm confused to the point of vertigo by this mysterious use of the future tense. Are waiters suddenly feeling compelled to specify that these things aren't happening yet, but will be once the dish has been assembled? What nonsense and foolishness is this? Look, the nightly special has already been designed. It doesn't need to be ordered to exist. If no one selects it, is it not still the special? Of course it is. Therefore, the special is a seared pork loin, served in a basil and butter sauce, topped with shiitake mushrooms, served with garlic roasted purple potatoes and asparagus. (Alright, that's it. I have to have it, even if I have to make it myself.)
And here's another one: "Would you like something to drink . . . or just water?" Well, what did you think I was going to do with the water? Bathe in it? Observe it closely throughout the meal? Grow something in it? I think one can confidently assume (in all but the strangest of cases) that water . . . in a glass . . . on a table . . . in a restaurant . . . is going to be used for drinking. This is why the Curmudgeon always adds additional gratuity for any waiter who asks, "Would you like anything to drink besides water?" I'm tempted to leave a thank-you note on behalf of English lovers everywhere.
Awesome? Did you call my order awesome? While I appreciate the encouragement, there has never been a restaurant order that was awesome. Yes, I know I haven't been present for all of them. But I'm going bravely out on a limb and taking the risk, making an educated assumption. Even if a bona fide angel, demon, ghost, or Angelina Jolie parked in a booth at your bistro, as awesome as that visit might be, when it came to ordering food, things would get instantly mundane:
"Yeah . . . what are your soups today?"
I also don't need to know that my order "sounds good," or that you think it's "perfect," or—God help us all—"sweet." I actually don't need to know what you think of my selections. Please just be a good lad and run along so you can put the order in. Then, bring it, chop-chop and tout de suite. I didn't come here because I needed approval. I mean, I do, but at the moment, I'm more focused on that pork loin (damn it that sounds good).
And speaking of ordering (though this point doesn't involve waiterspeak, it seems an appropriate time to register the complaint), I didn't sign up for the table-side floorshow, so please, skip the memory demonstration and write everything down. I'm sure your memory is fantastic . . . very impressive. Save it for your act in Vegas. I'd far prefer accuracy to your showboating. I can't tell you how many times a waiter has assured me, "Don't worry. I've got it," only to get my order wrong. What are they trying to prove? Just write it down!
Well, I don't know about you, but I feel much better. Now, where do I find purple potatoes? I'm going to be wanting to be purchasing them, and then I'm going to be cooking them, and they're going to be served with what I'm going to be eating.