... there's a thing or two you need to know
We should begin at the ending, when our waitress at one of New Hampshire's fine dining establishments recently brought us the check and informed us that "doggie bags" were illegal.
Illegal? In New Hampshire, or everywhere? If I know my state, it's because of a law that either began or ended here. We take pride in being the firsts in line or the last holdouts in all that we do . and don't do.
She didn't know. "Sorry, they won't let us repackage your leftovers anymore, but I can bring containers to the table, if you'd like to do it," she said, a little too pleased with herself.
But why? Sigh. In our litigious-happy climate, I knew it probably had something to do with the ability to use "cross-contamination" in the same sentence with "lawsuit" and "dysentery," but I didn't pursue it. Alright, Tiffany, we'll bag up our own table scraps.
How did I know her name was Tiffany? We'll now end at the beginning, when she lurched into position at our table with all the subtlety of a roadside bomb, and announced: "W'zup, guys! I'm Tiffany, and I'll be hanging out with you today!"
Faster than you could flap a napkin, my humor columnist juices began to sizzle:
Tiffany, we're not "hanging out." That's a vehicle of chumminess I'd rather not ride in with my waitress. I'm a patron of your employ. You are my server. Do you intend to sit down with me when you deliver the food and pick at my salad? Fine. Otherwise, please "hang out" in the kitchen.
I don't want to know your name. Familiarity breeds contempt. If you're not planning on doing something that requires me to notify your next of kin, please don't identify yourself. If you must name names, tell me who's doing the cooking and washing the dishes. I might need those for the subpoenas.
Here's a personal preference: If you've covered your body with tattoos, please wear something long-sleeved. I'm not sure why, but if the human extremity holding my plateful of spare ribs comes at me covered in Komodo dragons, I'm put slightly off my feed.
In the art of fine table-waiting, your timings, close observations and silent interventions are prized above all else. I was raised to not swallow and speak simultaneously unless I'm being waterboarded.
If you catch me chewing (hints: non-verbal, bobbing Adam's apple), don't ask me a question. Please wait until you again hear my voice and observe me open-mouth breathing. I will then nod in your direction or perform shadow puppets with my bread sticks. Trust me: you'll know if and when I need you.
I like spent food clutter. There's something primordial about a post-prandial table. Makes me feel like I'm guarding what's left of my prey after the hunt. Please, give me a few minutes alone with my bones and empty vessels.
Never "freshen up" my coffee. It upsets the balance of nature. Mine, anyway.
I always tip well because I know that you didn't emerge from the womb with a burning desire to feed strangers in the Granite State. I know about the indignities you suffer:
the sore feet, the inanity of repetition and the rude bread stick shadow puppeteer in Naugahyde Section B.
So, you'll always get a handsome gratuity from me, unless you intentionally stick me with a fork or fall into my soup.
If you do the latter, just please don't hang out in there. I think it's illegal. NH
This article appears in the April 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine