The Ma'am Treatment
to go: i can't even remember, frankly. ask me again this weekend.
young waitress is
earning her tip.
cute, but not
too cute ... friendly, but not
too friendly ... quick and
efficient, but not pushy or obnoxious. She seats us right away, even
though the restaurant is obviously doing a booming business this
morning. She gives us a decent booth, with a window view and plenty of
room to spread out and read the newspaper. She supplies us with
coffee and menus and ice water before we've even finished settling in.
Plus she does that impressive Look
what an amazingly groovy waitress I am!
thing: she takes our complex breakfast order without even bothering to
write it down. (A California omelette and sourdough toast for David,
Belgian waffles and cheesy scrambled eggs for our young
dining companions, orange juice all around.)
then she blows it.
you?" she says,
turning to me with a cheerfully insincere smile. "What will you
be having, Ma'am?"
descends on our table. Next to me, I can actually feel
David clench. If either one of my daughters were here right now, I'm
sure they would be kicking me under the table. (Behave
yourself, Mom.) They all tell me
that I'm much too hard on waitresses: that I have a bad attitude,
that I misinterpret professional deference for snootiness, that I
don't understand how difficult and demeaning it is to provide cheerful
service to a bunch of rude crabby ungrateful customers all day long.
(Yeah? Try sitting at the front desk sometime.) But my family has it
all wrong. I don't hate waitresses: waitresses hate ME.
Usually on sight, as a matter of fact, and usually for no reason
whatsoever. I can walk into any restaurant on the planet and tell you
-- within five seconds -- whether a waitress and I are going to get
#1: If they call me
"Ma'am" ... it's all over.
I mutter blackly,
hunched over my menu. "Do I look like someone who should be called
'Ma'am'?" And then I
glance up at her, blinking, with my patented Oh
gosh! Did I say that out loud?
swear you can actually
all of the blood drain from her face.
so sorry!" she
gasps. "I didn't ... I just ... "
forget that we're
old people sometimes," David jumps in, beaming across the table at her
in amiable crisis intervention. Don't
mind my wife: her meds haven't kicked in yet.
"Most of the time," he laughs, "we still think we're sixteen." The
rattled young waitress looks at my middle-aged husband -- sitting there
in his Motörhead T-shirt and his beat-up sneakers, spooning
five extra sugars into his coffee -- and she smiles uneasily.
finishes taking my
order without even looking at me -- the #2 Breakfast Combo Plate, eggs
over easy, hold the Geritol -- and then she flees to the safety of the
kitchen, no doubt wondering how to salvage her tip from the crabby
old bitch at Table 17.
instant she's gone,
of course, I am filled with remorse. She really IS doing a good job,
after all. It's not like she's chewing gum or dribbling coffee on our
laps or attempting to engage us in gratuitous baseball chat. ("How
about those A's?") And
like she's a telemarketer, or a Fed Ex trainee, or one of those sleazy
teenage salespersons who go around the building peddling "framed
motivational posters." We get a bazillion of those at the office every
day, and every damn one of them calls me "Ma'am." (Although with
them, at least, I get the luxury of hanging up the phone/slamming the
door in their face.)
nice little waitress
doesn't deserve The Don't-Call-Me Ma'am Treatment.
... who am I
kidding? I AM
a "Ma'am." It takes me fifteen minutes, these days, to thoroughly
spackle the creases around my eyes in the morning (and then another
fifteen minutes to sandblast them clean at night). I didn't recognize
ANY of the Best New Artist nominees at the MTV Awards last week. I
watched the very first episode of "Gilligan's Island" ... the actual
was broadcast. I have a tube of Icy Hot in my purse, right this very
Ma'am. It's time I
face that fact, I guess, and quit tormenting hapless young
waitresses/sales clerks/Customer Service Representatives for sport.
worry," I whisper
to David. "I'll be nice to her when she comes back."
be nice to her. He doesn't like
it when I'm less of a human being than I should be. While we wait for
our food, I sit at the table with my hands folded in front of me,
smiling benignly ... prepared to be pleasant and forbearing and
appreciative. But when our waitress returns with our orders, fifteen
minutes later, she still can't bring herself to look at me. Everybody
else at our table is rewarded with a smile, a clean napkin, extra foil
packets of jelly and marmalade, refills of orange juice.
get dead silence.
that's OK. I deserve
it. Karma will probably repay me at the reception desk tomorrow
morning, anyway, with nine hours of hang-ups, heavy breathers and
pompous assholes calling on their speakerphone. That'll be OK, too.
I've earned it. I'll deal with it.
we all dig in and enjoy
our breakfast. Just to be on the safe side, though, I examine my food
with a little extra care before I eat it.
-- when nobody is
looking -- I drop an extra five dollar bill onto the tip as we're
leaving the restaurant.
throw a rock