“To Tip or Not To Tip?” (That Is the Question, But What Is the Answer?): A response to Dave Infante’s Thrillist post “Why You Should Stop Tipping Your Server”.

totipornottotipRecently Dave Infante, some guy over at Thrillist, published a piece entitled, Why You Should Stop Tipping Your Server (he also very helpfully, in the body of the post, delineated several “Reasons Not To Tip”) — it was also subsequently published by HuffPo. According to Mr. Infante he drew his inspiration from an argument made by one Mr. Greg Linster over at a blog entitled Rationally Speaking.

To be fair, Mr. Linster was exploring the custom of tipping as an Economist. In his piece he explored why, based on what is considered sound economic theory, Americans tip restaurant workers but do not apply the same generosity to, say, auto mechanics who, he reasoned, may do a more “important” job for the average consumer. He muddied the waters of his argument a bit by throwing grocery clerks and baggers into the mix, but still he managed to make his point, which was that tipping is not “rational”, insofar as economic theory defines rationality.

He managed to answer his own question when he admitted that auto mechanics (and grocery workers) are not tipped because they are paid a fair wage by their employers. This, of course, is not the case for servers and bartenders, a class of worker who, in most States, make less than minimum wage. I’m lucky enough to work as a server/bartender in the State of New Jersey, a place where restaurant owners are allowed to pay their workers a wage that is far below minimum wage (and, let me just add, the lowest wage in the country for service workers) — $2.13/hour.

Mr. Linster reasoned that, unlike the proprietors of automotive service stations (or grocery stores), restaurant owners protect their financial bottom lines by unfairly transferring all of the economic risks associated with running a business to their workers and, by default, to their customers. This is only partly true. Restaurant owners do pay the salaries of the back of the house staff. Still, Mr. Linster makes a solid point with respect to the risk-reward relationship that exists between restaurant owners and front of the house employees.

What Mr. Linster does not do is get on his soap box and shout “STOP TIPPING!”, in fact, he ends his essay by saying this:

While it’s unlikely that the irrational practice of tipping will become antiquated any time soon, I hope that I’ve demonstrated that it is, at least theoretically, problematic and that the arguments for keeping it are rather weak. Irrational as it may be, I will continue to tip quite generously until something does change.

Using Mr. Linster’s argument, it is Mr. Infante who drags out said soap box and leads the charge with his headline grabbing Thrillist post — a post that encourages readers (and, more importantly, diners) to abandon the practice of tipping. His reasoning? It will force restaurant owners to pay their staff. He goes so far as to suggest that, to this end, all restaurant owners have to do is add 20% to their menu prices and, Voila!, no more tipping! Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

It is simple. It is also simple-minded. Like Communism, it is one of those things that look great on paper. It sounds good. I would argue that it is only a good idea in theory. I sincerely doubt that it would ever work in practice. The assumption Mr. Infante makes — and conveniently omits from his article — is that restaurant owners would take this price increase and willingly share it with their front of house staff. This, of course, presupposes that restaurant owners are an altruistic bunch with Socialist tendencies. It has been my experience that they are neither altruists nor Socialists. In other words, it would be a cold day in hell before servers were paid a fair and living wage by the average restaurateur, not so long as they are allowed by law to pay them $2.13/hour.

No restaurant owner in his or her right mind is going to fork over a 20% menu price increase to its front of house staff, not willingly anyway. Servers will NEVER be paid that kind of money by a restaurant owner. NEVER! (Take a close look at the catering industry if you want proof that this is the case. What? You thought that the gratuity you paid to the restaurant where your company hosted that last retirement dinner you attended actually divvied up the gratuity they charged you fairly amongst its staff? Think again. I guarantee you the house took a generous cut. The house usually does.)

This, of course, begs the question, “How do we transfer the risk to the restaurant owner?” The only answer I can come up with is legislation. Write your member of Congress, call your Assemblyperson, fax your State Senator. Get a group of like-minded folks together and start an organization to unionize restaurant workers. Hire lobbyists. Go ahead. Change the system. I’ll be right there with you. But don’t write inflammatory nonsense encouraging people to stop tipping $2.13/hour workers. That’s just silly. And counterproductive. Hurting the little guy won’t change anything. Not in any meaningful way, anyway.

I would love to ask Mr. Infante a few questions related to his arrangement with Thrillist. Questions like: Was he paid to write the article? If so, did he receive a flat rate? Is there some provision in his contract, if he even has a contract, that allows him to share in the ad revenues from a post that generated such a large number of “hits”? If not, will he be asking the good folks over at Thrillist to share this increased revenue with him? Will they do so?

I doubt they will. It has been my experience that writers, like servers, are an undervalued, unappreciated, and underpaid bunch. Still, it would be nice to think that we have each other’s backs.

She’s a Jersey Girl After All!


‘Twas the night before …

…Parents Weekend at my daughter’s college. I’m getting everything ready to throw in the car so that we can get an early start tomorrow. Since she left in August we have sent her two packages. Since package #2 left New Jersey a few weeks ago I’ve been compiling a list of the things that we need to bring with us this weekend. It’s not a short list.

Mostly, what we’re talking about here is foul weather gear and heavy clothing. It has gotten significantly chillier up in the northern portion of Vermont since August. Significantly. Chillier.

Outside of these types of things, necessary things, what my daughter wants more than anything is a taste of home. Tastes, plural, really. Literally.

She wants bagels. She wants pizza. She wants fresh mozzarella — the kind that you can get in the supermarket here, the kind they don’t sell anywhere in Vermont, a State that is, basically, KNOWN for its cheese. Not fresh mozzarella, though. Nope. Not THAT cheese. Not mozzarella of the caliber that she is used to eating. Not the GOOD kind. Not the stuff that we (almost) ALWAYS have a braid of in our fridge. Because, you know, this is Jersey. It goes good with the tomatoes. On a nice semolina bread.

Don’t even get me started on bread. There’s no good bread outside of this area. None. End of story. And bagels? Fuggedaboudit.

I don’t know what it is about bagels. I cannot understand why no one outside of the New York-Metropolitan area can figure out how to make a decent bagel. It’s dough boiled in water for crying out loud! How hard can that be? Apparently it isn’t just difficult, it’s impossible. Because nobody makes them like we do. Nobody.

I’ve heard it’s something about our water supply. Okay. So, if you want to make an authentic bagel, ship our water to wherever it is you are. Expensive? Sure. Impossible? Surely not. Still, I’ve never heard of anyone doing it. You’d have to figure if they’d do it anywhere, they’d do it in Vegas. Maybe they do and I just don’t know about it. I don’t think so, though. If it concerned bagels, I’m sure I’d know about it.

I know next to nothing about what’s going on in the world. That guy with Ebola who died? I didn’t even know there WAS a guy with Ebola in this country. I thought people were making it up. If he’d perished as a result of getting ahold of a bad bagel, though, that I would’ve known about. Oh, yes. I would have. Because that would interest me. And it would concern me. Eating a bagel can kill me? Oh. My. God.

I’d have to think long and hard about whether or not life in a world without bagels — a bagelless future — would be worth living. I would. I really would. I’m not entirely sure I would choose to go on. Honestly. I’m not even slightly kidding. I do not joke about bagels. Bagels are sacred.

As is pizza. Well, REAL pizza anyway. I’m not talking about that pastry dough or buttery crust concoction they try to peddle as pizza up in Chicagoland. I’m talking about the stuff we make here in Jersey. Real pizza. The kind made of dough that’s stretched and shaped by a human fist, as God intended pizza to be made. Not by a rolling pin, which may, in point of fact, be the work of the devil — or his handmaids. Real pizza. With the tomato sauce kissing the dough, not hanging out on top of the cheese like an afterthought. Real pizza. Jersey pizza.

Vermont has changed her some. I won’t lie. She has made some recent requests for flannel shirts. The kid with the subscription to “Teen Vogue” asking for PLAID FLANNEL shirts had me a little worried.  I was concerned that she was eschewing her roots, perhaps throwing in with the cheddar cheese and maple syrup crowd until, that is, she asked for the foods that she was raised on, the foods of her people,

It turns out that I needn’t have worried. It looks like I raised a Jersey girl after all. How about that.

Ten Points to Nitwit!

footindoortenpointstonitwitSo, you slid in under the wire, did you? You managed to stick your foot in the door at 10:59:59, did you? You certainly are a slick one, I’ll tell you that.

I’ll tell you what else you are, just in case you are not aware of it. Consider it a public service. You, my friend, are a nincompoop. Of the highest order. Do I even need to tell you that I, and the rest of the serving community-at-large, have no patience for nincompoops?

If you are an overachieving nincompoop, one who wants to, say, graduate to nitwit in a relatively short amount of time, here are just a few of the behaviors that you absolutely must engage in should you seize an opportunity to be seated in a closed restaurant.

You’ll need ten points. Walking in the door just as it was being locked? You’ve already earned one point! I suspect that collecting the other nine won’t present a problem for a nincompoop like you!

Promise to “be quick”. (1 point)

Because this is the battle cry of the latecomer, it is only worth one point. Still, a point is a point.

Ask at least two questions pertaining to salad. (1 point)

It’s salad. What more do you need to know? Sadly, every nincompoop we come into contact with DURING OUR REGULAR BUSINESS HOURS asks ridiculous questions about salad. You don’t get extra points for your late arrival. For those of you who cannot even formulate a question, but are still stumped by salad, let me give you a head start. Try the most ridiculous question first: “Does it have lettuce in it?”

Comment on the noise level. (2 points)

WHY, YES, IT IS LOUD IN HERE! This may be the result of you being the only human occupying such a cavernous space. This one is worth a whopping two points because only a nincompoop with zero grasp of elementary school science would be surprised by this. Consider these points a gift and a testament to my compassionate nature. I do feel terrible for someone who barely made it out of the fifth grade.

Require an explanation of meat (or poultry). (3 points)

Chicken comes, oddly enough, from chickens. The other two choices that are available at most American restaurants — beef and pork —  are a little trickier, I’ll give you that. Still, even a nincompoop who is well on his way to becoming a nitwit, such as yourself, should be able to work through this one. If you can’t, though, good for you! It’s worth three whole points. Cows provide us with beef; pigs with pork. It is a crying shame that you cannot, at your age, identify the animals which have given their lives to sustain you — a person who wanders through life in such an oblivious manner. If there is such a thing as karma, and I am optimistic that there is, you can look forward to death by stampede. Yee-Ha!

Ask what is “fresh”. (3 points)

We are CLOSED. Nothing is “fresh”. Frankly, nothing was “fresh” when we opened. Did you see a vegetable garden when you pulled into the parking lot — a parking lot that borders a major highway? How about a pond? Or a corral? The only thing “fresh” is going to be your server if you don’t snap to it and order already!

Order everything “well done”. (4 points, plus 2 “bonus” points for sending it back because it is overcooked!)

This one is worth a lot of points because it is already behavior befitting a nitwit. Of course you want a well done 30-ounce slab of beef. Of course you do. Without fail, and every server on the planet sees this coming, it will be “too” well done for you. Congratulations! Please reward yourself with two bonus points. Well done!

Order dessert. (5 points)

Only a nincompoop just points away from being a nitwit would order dessert from a server and a kitchen staff that they are, effectively, holding  hostage an hour-and-a-half AFTER said restaurant has closed for the evening. We were ready for you, though. There’s a piece of cheesecake that we’ve been trying to unload since 1995. That baby has your name written all over it. Bon Apetit!

Those ten points weren’t too hard to earn, were they? You sure are on a roll! Why stop at nitwit, though? Especially now. If my math is correct, and I’m fairly certain that it is (I’m NO nitwit!), you are already well on your way, following tonight’s shenanigans, to becoming an asshat. I’ll have to check the paperwork, but I think you’ll need fifteen points for that one. It sounds like a lot, but I think you’re just the nitwit for the job.

Let me get you started by making the following helpful suggestion: Be the first one at the Starbuck’s tomorrow. Arrive at 6:48 AM. Make sure you bang loudly on the door to alert them to your presence. (Encountering a newly-crowned nitwit is every coffee shop workers dream at the crack of dawn!) I daresay that your local barista will be delighted to award you bonus points for pressing your nose up to the glass and miming that you want coffee. She’s probably never seen that before!

I’ll alert the asshats to get your membership card ready.

Honesty: It Is NOT Always the Best Policy.

honestypolicyThere may not be a bad time to experience that fifteen minutes of fame that Andy Warhol promised us. I would argue, however, that there may be a time when being the “Toast of the Town” may not be optimal; times when, for example, it would be highly inconvenient to be invited to spend a few minutes with Kathie Lee and Hoda. For me, that time would be now. Not now as in right this minute, although this wouldn’t be a good time, either, as it’s Sunday morning and what I’m wearing could best, and if you were inclined to kindness, be described as “a get-up”. Hey, it’s the first cold morning and I haven’t yet dug out my heavy robe!

It occurs to me that the heavy robe has a “get-up” quality to it, as well. Alas, the condition of my sleepwear is a story that will have to wait for another day. For now, we’ll just focus on the condition of my hair.

Now and for as long as I am sporting this bad haircut would be poor timing in terms of my achieving any level of fame, success, or notoriety. Now is dependent upon how quickly my hair grows out.  Now, in this context, could mean months. Or, possibly, years.

Like a beer run at 2 a.m., it all started out innocently enough, but ended, as these things often do, in tragedy and heartbreak. It’s all my fault, though. I take complete responsibility. Although I think it would be nice if the good folks over at Groupon and my stylist bore some of the blame for the situation that I currently find myself in. Nice, but not necessary.

The situation that I currently find myself in is, to be exact, this: I have two different haircuts and only the one head. From the back it looks like she was going for a “Fonz” look; for the front she drew her inspiration from either Victoria Beckham or Anna Wintour. My money is on “Posh Spice”, though, as I don’t think this young lady, if she had a gun to her head and her life was dependent upon identifying Anna Wintour, would be up to the task!

Sure, she was vapid enough to be a “Vogue” reader. She simply did not strike me as they type of person who would have the slightest interest in the history of that magazine.

What she was interested in was giving me something “funky” in the way of a new hairdo. I was not aware that this was her game plan until it was too late, until she was finished and said, “Oh, my God. This is great. Soooo funky!” If you want to send chills of terror through the spine of a 49-year-old woman AND you are a hairdresser who has just cut said 49-year-old woman’s hair, I highly recommend that you utter that sentence. It’s a real attention-grabber.

Why did I end up with the 20-year-old stylist? The one whose own hair was not only dyed a color that does not, to my knowledge, occur in nature, but also a young woman who appeared to have been out to all hours the night before my tragic hair experience? If her breath was any indication, she was not out volunteering at the local soup kitchen.

I was tempted to offer her a mint, to cover up the smell of the dozen, or so, vodka drinks that she had imbibed in the night before, but I feared that this behavior, well-meaning though it would have been, may have been construed as rude, rather than helpful. Certainly I did not want the young lady who was going to take scissors to my hair to dislike me.

Had I known what the end result was going to be, I may have offered her the damn mint. It would be difficult to imagine that there is a worse haircut out there than the one I ultimately received. But, who knows?

I have decided, upon reviewing the events of yesterday, that I ended up with the most inexperienced, the most hung over, the most sleep-deprived, salon worker in the building because I was honest. I did what the Groupon coupon told me to do — something I will NEVER do again — which was to identify myself as a Groupon holder. (The person who walked in behind me, the one who walked out looking like a normal person — you know, one haircut, one head — had done no such thing. She just made a regular appointment, showed up, and THEN presented HER coupon. You live and you learn, folks. You live and you learn.) Because I was honest, I got what I got.

Honesty can be a bit of a sticky wicket, though, can’t it? It is NOT always the best policy. Ask me if I was honest when she finished with my hair? I was not. Because what would have been worse than suffering a bad haircut would have been expressing my feelings about it to the 20-year-old hairdresser, who, her personal habiats notwithstanding, was a very sweet girl.

While my initial reaction was, in fact, “WTF?”, I made the conscious decision to hide it. I decided, instead, when she breathlessly and, yes, hopefully asked me my opinion, to lie. I wasn’t going to be the one to swing the heavy club — the one filled with sarcasm and, yes, shock. I feared that if I had employed honesty, I may have crushed her spirit, damaged her self-esteem.

Who wants to be responsible for that? Not me. Me? I’d rather live with a bad haircut — or, in this case, two bad haircuts.

Let Someone Else Serve the Coffee

imageThis whole Ebola thing has gotten me thinking. My first thought was something along the lines of how not to get it in the first place. And then I began to come into contact with some of the loonies who shared my first thought, which lead, inevitably, to my somewhat less optimistic second thought, which was “Maybe I’d rather be dead.”

If the compulsive hand washers, silverware sterilizers, disposable cup carriers, and surgical mask wearers will be the folks left on Earth after this pandemic runs its course, I would rather be killed by the Ebola. Really. I would not be able to deal with the disappearance of all the normal people — the slackers, the poor planners, the slovenly. My people.

I would have to hope that a few other, “fly by the seat of your pants”, types would also have been inexplicably spared. Finding them would, of course, have to become my post-pandemic life’s work. Of course it’s possible that we’ll just find each other, naturally. Like being attracted to like as it were.

I cannot for a minute imagine living in a world where I might be forced to interact with, befriend people even, who would invite me over to admire the cleanliness of, say, their toilet bowls. Braggarts! I tend to avoid these people now — like the plague. (A phrase that will no doubt morph into “like Ebola” if the doomsday predictors are correct in their assessment of this supervirus.) I am suspicious of folks who can boast that their home is “so clean we can eat off the floor”! Wasn’t it to arrest such behavior (and, I suspect, to create a place to throw junk mail)  the sole reason some forward thinking human invented the table to begin with?

Not knowing his (or her) name is bad enough. I’m sure fashioning that first table was fraught with difficulty for “Table Guy”, though. Why further dishonor him by eating off of something that isn’t a table?

While it might be nice to be around and to participate in the reinvention of the world following the near decimation of the human race, I fear that those who had survived as a result of taking the proper precautions would not be a group that would welcome me and my people, let alone actually listen to our ideas for setting up a new world order.

Frankly, I already don’t like these people — The Superior Survivors, as I’ve come to think of them. It’s not likely that they would be related to the folks who allowed the name of “Table Guy” to pass out of history, but I can’t help but blame them — and resent them for it — just the same.

I can envision how it would play out between us. Me, and people like me, a population who had managed to avoid the virus because we used the down time caused by the epidemic to catch up on some much needed sleep or to (finally!) scratch “War and Peace” off of our reading lists and not, as The Superior Survivors had done, engaged in more purposeful, more useful pursuits — pursuits that no doubt included copious amounts of cleaning with bleach and toothbrushes — would probably be relegated to serving the coffee. Or worse, making it.

I’ve already had that life. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather just succumb to the virus. Let someone else serve the coffee.

Servers Are Not…

abgserversarenotServers are not invisible. We may seem so to those of you who can’t be bothered to greet us, as we are required to greet you — politely and with as much enthusiasm as we can muster. We are, indeed, living creatures who can be seen by most other humans. Try to be one of those humans.

Servers are not deaf. We hear you, sometimes from clear across the restaurant as you wonder, often loudly and within earshot of our manager, “Where is SHE?”, the “she” in question being the woman you chose to treat as invisible just minutes before; the person you could not take the time to interact with — so engaged were you in making that appointment for tire rotation or next week’s manicure. Try to stay focused on the task at hand. Take care of your personal business at a time when your attention is not required by others.

Servers are not psychic. We don’t know that you don’t like cheese or are allergic to mushrooms (you’re not, but that’s another story). We don’t know that you are gluten-free just by looking at you. You’d think by now we would be able to do so, but we cannot. Perhaps the next generation of servers will bridge that evolutionary gap. For now, you’ll have to actually communicate your needs to us. I know. I know. It’s annoying.

Servers are not responsible for your bad day. We don’t know that it was car trouble that brought you to our doorstep. We assume that you chose our dining establishment because you like the food. If you are nice to us, we might be inclined to recommend a reputable local mechanic. If you’re not, we’ll just direct you to the nearest Corporate Auto Center. Good luck with that.

Servers are not responsible for your horrible life, either. We don’t know that you just came from visiting your son in lock-up or that your no-good, lying ex-husband is late with the child support AGAIN. Don’t take your hard luck, your bad mood, or your poor choices out on us. We did not incarcerate your loved one, max out your credit cards, or force you into a loveless marriage. We’re just trying to eke out a living here.

Servers do not “disappear”. We have a multitude of responsibilities in other parts of the restaurant. While we can anticipate your need for, say, ketchup with your burger or an iced tea refill, we cannot stand on top of you awaiting your need for extra parsley. We have to keep up with ice, glasses, soup, lemons, garbage, coffee, utensils, salad dressings, etc., etc., etc. I could go on, but it exhausts me to think about it.

Servers are not psychiatrists. If you are a crazy person, please get the mental help that is available to you. Until such time, please stay out of public places. Please. This goes double for those of you suffering from OCD. If you want to insure that your silverware is sterile, please bring it from home. If I have to serve one more person a glass of hot water so that they may dip their fork, knife, and spoon into it, I may be forced to introduce Prozac to the soft drinks.

Servers are not babysitters. If you insist on feeding your children in a place other than your own home or your minivan, please corral them. They are your responsibility, not ours. Oh, and, while you’re at it, could you clean up after them, too? That would be swell. And before you ask, the answer is “NO!” We cannot put cartoons on the television so that little Johnny might sit quietly for 37 seconds. This is only one of the many, but possibly most important, reasons why the good people over at Apple invented the iPad. Buy one. Get yourself a cool case. Carry it with you — AT ALL TIMES!

Servers are not a dime a dozen. Good servers — the hard-working, professional ones — are not easy to come by. Not everyone can be a server, let alone a good one. Corporations and individual restaurant owners, these same people who pay us $2.13/hour, may want to bear this one in mind.

The Picture Menu

abgpicturemenuI have made the recommendation, on numerous occasions and to no avail, that what we are sorely in need of, what we could really use — over at The Annoying Bar & Grill — is a picture menu. Sadly, I’ve only been half-kidding when I’ve made this (sometimes) snarky suggestion.

A resource such as this would go a long way in helping us to avoid situations like the one in which I found myself last week. Then again, if we had a picture menu, I wouldn’t have this fabulous story to tell. File under “every cloud has a silver lining”.

My absolute favorite table last week consisted of two men who, instead of mirroring my warm smile, chose to greet me, instead, with some finger snapping. No one, and I mean no one, enjoys a finger-snapper more than I do.

These two, as it would turn out, enjoyed gesturing of all kinds. In fairness, it was the resource that they had at their disposal to make themselves understood, as they spoke almost no English. They would have been prime candidates for a picture menu. I’ll bet they would have appreciated such a thing.

Following their attention-getting (and immediately off-putting) finger snapping, I was drawn into a game of charades. They were forced, due to the nonexistence of a picture menu, to attempt to convey to me what they wanted to eat by making fish faces, by mimicking swimming. Yes. Grown men were doing this. Had I known then that they spoke zero English I may not have been able to help myself from guessing aloud, rather than just thinking, “Wait. Wait. Is it ‘The Incredible Mr. Limpet'”?

They followed up the fish faces by opening and closing their fingers. Okay, I thought, maybe it isn’t a movie. Could it be a song? Is it “Rock Lobster”? (I dispensed with this line of thinking rather quickly. Who was I kidding? They couldn’t possibly be referencing that old song, could they?)

Sensing my confusion, one of them grabbed my pen and my order book from my hand. Not quite as rude as finger snapping, but pretty close. It was then that I realized that we had moved on from charades. It would seem that I was going to be an unwilling participant in an impromptu game of “Pictionary”. (A case could be made that they were fashioning their own picture menu here!)

The clue-giver discussed something with his dining partner, in their own language, prior to sketching a very primitive rendering of a fish on my order pad, with my pen. (I wanted to point out that colluding with another player was tantamount to cheating, but I decided to suspend the rules of the game for the time being. We needed to move this along. I had other tables, for crying out loud!)

Their sketch looked very much like this: basic fish
As you can see, no pincers in sight. And so I ordered them the tilapia. And the French fries. Because I didn’t want to assume rice and be pigeonholed as a racist.

Frankly, I don’t know how they decided upon our restaurant to begin with. What made them pull in to our establishment if what they were after was a fish dinner? Do cow horns, which are featured prominently in our logo, mean something else in their part of Asia? Do cows SWIM there?

As if this whole exchange had not been interesting enough, it got more amusing (and, yes, slightly frustrating) as our relationship progressed. They seemed to be very excited when I delivered their main courses, excitement which I mistook for “Wow! Look at that! She got it! She understood us!Fantastic!” This, as I would soon find out, was a grave mistake on my part.

Their enthusiastic reactions were not, as I had originally suspected, a result of their love of tilapia and French fries. It became clear to me, as I read their body language, that, perhaps, tilapia was not what they had had in mind when they drew what any child would agree was a picture of a flat fish sans pincers. They kept pointing at their meals, shaking their heads in the negative, and making “pinching” gestures with their hands. “Ah!”, I thought, “It was lobster they wanted after all.”

In a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mindset, I made a motion with my own hands, which I hoped they would understand was meant to convey the message: “Calm down. I’ll get you a couple of lobster tails!” (I was tempted to add pincers to their fish picture, but abandoned that notion as too time-consuming.)

As they were shoving their unwanted tilapia at me, I removed the plates to the kitchen. I then had to have a conversation, in Spanglish, with the kitchen staff — a group who might also benefit from pictures of our food. I explained that I needed a couple of lobster tail dinners and that I needed them “rapido“. The emphasis being on rapido!

My finger-snappers seemed relieved when I brought out their lobster tails. They were not wholly satisfied, however. They began to point at the French fries and shake their heads, again vigorously, again in a negative way. I was beginning to suspect that I had made the wrong starch selection. I then did what any racist idiot worth her salt would do under these circumstances, which was to hightail it back to the kitchen and procure for them some rice — their native grain of choice.

My cave artists did NOT want rice. How did I know that they did not want rice? They took their forks and proceeded to throw the rice off of their plates and onto the tabletop as they, once again, shook their heads back and forth to convey the message: “No. We do NOT want rice.”

They followed up the rice-tossing with a closed fisted, up and down gesture — a gesture that I interpreted, in this situation, to mean “mashed”. While this action means something altogether different to Americans, as we don’t have “jerk-off” potatoes, I threw caution to the wind and went with the “mashed” potatoes.

Once they had left and as I was clearing the area of the errant grains of rice that had been unceremoniously “removed” from their plates, one of my co-workers blew by and reminded me that it could have been worse — that they could have ordered dessert. I reminded him that the dessert menus have pictures.