Monday, May 18, 2009



Emily and I had a lovely "24 hour vacation" on Maryland's Eastern Shore, including Ocean City. Ocean City is kind of Maryland's answer to Atlantic City, minus the gambling.

We visited several different eating places, including a "no shirt no shoes no service" pancake house in Ocean City. (No, I didn't see any pantsless would-be patrons testing the policy.)

Anyway, you know I'm not always big on banter with waitstaff. And at Annie's, the more formal atmosphere dictated a kind of restraint on the staff. Not so at this pancake house....

Waitress, leaning over to talk with family behind our booth: You know men are good for only one thing, right? (Laughter from their booth.)

To accentuate her point, she has her hand on my shoulder and applying noticeable pressure while she's saying this.

She turns to us. I widen my eyes to show surprise and a little consternation at what she just said.

Good morning. So, do you want a drink, or you want a moment to recover?

(Complete with heavy rural accent)

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who banter well on the spur of the moment no matter what the topic, and those whose impromptu repartee works best within a given range of topics. We Aspies tend to lean very strongly toward the latter, and I'm no exception.

I don't like curveballs - especially when breaking that word in two summarizes what they're about. Nor do I appreciate explicit probes into my emotional state from people I don't know from Adam.

As an Aspie, I have difficulty with on the spot sensitive stuff, because I have a hard time knowing the general rules (which differ from milieu to milieu), recognizing appropriate cues and predicting where each conversational turn might lead. So I restrict it to a very small circle of people. A large proportion of which - namely Emily - was with me at the time.

I put a damper on it - not exactly my toughest decision that day. My watch shows just before 12:30pm, so:

Good afternoon to you, ma'am. I'd just like some water without ice, and a straw, if you please.

She nods to me:

Good afternoon to you, too.

and then turns her charm on Emily. More honey than a beehive, and if darlin's were twenties she wouldn't need to work. Meanwhile, my metaphorical eye rolls just need a dab of cream cheese to be complete.

Emily asks for a coffee. (Emily:Coffee::I:Chocolate)

Then she goes to the ladies' room.

Waitress comes back with our drinks.

Now, you tell your young lady that this coffee is bottomless - all the refills she wants for free. And she can also take one out the door, no extra charge.

Thank you, ma'am. I'll certainly let her know.

Which of course I do when Emily gets back. We Aspies believe in faithfully transmitting knowledge unedited.

Just before taking our order, the waitress turns to Emily and explains that anytime she wants more coffee, she can have it for free, plus she can have one to go, all for not a penny more. Inwardly, I furrow my eyebrows: doesn't this sound a little bit like what I just said to someone, at someone else's explicit request?

Anyway, she's certainly a helpful waitress. After I ask whether a certain container holds blueberry syrup, she not only confirms that it does but also offers to bring out the strawberry syrup - which I gladly accept.

Afterwards, she brings out the check and hands it straight to me - winning me over further.

To Emily: And this is for your gentleman.

I say: Thank you, ma'am.

So she turns to me:

I always thought checks are a he-thing, not a we-thing. Ladies first, men paying. My daddy always told me: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

On the one hand, I find her kind of conversation - not to mention direct and deliberate bodily contact - rather annoying.

On the other hand, I know how hard she's hustling to make a living.

If she's closer to Emily's age than to mine, I'm a monkey's uncle. If her tattoos are any indication, she hasn't led a soft life.

And waitressing (as distinct from waiter-ing), especially in "no shirt no shoes no service" places, is not kind to the no longer young.

What she lacks in charm between her bosom and her bottom, she has to make up between her larynx and her lips. And I'm sure much of her clientele are much more receptive than I to what she's dishing out - otherwise she'd change her tune. After all, it's her (and her children's?) food on the table at home that's at stake.

Not only do I inhabit an NT world 24/7, I happen to be among a very different set of people at the moment, who appreciate very different kinds of manners, from what Emily and I are accustomed to.

I go to the cashier and pay the check, plus a 20+% tip.

What do you think?


Mama Mara said...

I really think you're a gem, Jeff. The eye rolls with cream cheese sent me into a giggle fit from which I'm still recovering. As a banterer myself and good friend to several waitresses, I enjoy the back-and-forth of a sharp server, and that along with good food-bringin' is well worth the 20%-plus.

I do think it's criminal that we pay these hard-working folks this way, their financial compensation determined by the whims of their customers. Imagine a CEO being paid that way!

SavedAspie said...


SavedAspie said...

Just to comment on what Mama Mara said, I bet if CEOs were treated that way, we'd have better, cheaper, products and much nicer customer service ;-)