I am shy by nature, but sometimes I really enjoy a gregarious person who doesn’t make me nervous. On our last night in Arizona, Nancy and I stayed at an airport hotel since we had a very early flight home in the morning. We decided not to venture into Phoenix. Instead we headed to the hotel’s bar/restaurant for dinner. We got the perfect waiter.
Something as simple as my wife ordering her sauvignon blanc, became fodder for conversation. She likes the New Zealand variety. I would never be able to have a conversation about that. She likes it because it’s “citrusy.” Personally, I can’t taste that, and just saying the word citrusy for some reason makes me squirm. This was not the case with our waiter.
“I am totally with you on that one! It’s like, I mean, those New Zealanders invented the sauvignon blanc! I couldn’t agree more. I’m like, I don’t care what the brand is, just make sure it’s from New Zealand, right?”
Nancy immediately liked this guy. If I were a cynic (and I am), I’d think he was just schmoozing to get a good tip, but he did it so sincerely. He actually seemed to care about sauvignon blanc, which is really impressive to me. He recommended a good beer for me, and realized (astutely) that I was not going to be engaging in any conversation about the hoppiness or the musty malt grassiness of this beer. He just plopped it down in front of me and said, “It’s a good one. You’ll be wantin’ another one.”
When a server brought her burger, Nancy asked for some extra ketchup. I don’t think it’s because of its citrusy flavor or anything, but Nancy admits she basically views burgers as a vehicle for ketchup. The server seemed to sense this. She brought three of those little paper cups. Nancy was pleased.
When our waiter returned, he could not resist. “What’s up with that?!” he said, pointing to the flight of ketchups. “You trying to drown out the beef flavor?”
“No, I just like ketchup. Besides, I have a burger AND fries. They both require ketchup.”
“Well, just see that you finish it all, young lady.”
For the rest of the meal, he kept popping back, whether he was bringing food or not, just shootin’ the breeze. We had a big screen TV behind us, so we spent a lot of the meal commenting on whichever Olympic event was on at the time. The man could riff on anything. Distance speed skating: “Yeah, I guess it’s harder than it looks. I mean, those guys just look like they’re gliding around in a circle. They don’t even look like they’re breakin’ a sweat.” Big Air Snowboarding: “I mean that just looks crazy. What parent lets their kids do that sport? ‘Sure, son, just ski down a vertical hill, zoom over a jump that shoots you five stories into the air, do some crazy $#@&% in the air, and try not to bellyflop.'” He rolled his eyes. I resisted the urge to tell him we had a child who did Big Air Snowboarding. We don’t, after all.
This, of course got us into conversation about which of the events was most unbelievable and which was the most accessible. I voted luge as perhaps most insane event, though the cringe-worthy half-pipe accidents of the night before were making me reconsider. Of course, you can’t really seem to have a Winter Olympic conversation without someone bringing up the humorous nature of the Swiffer event. This led to Nancy putting in her two cents about joining the Bridgeport Curling Club…for a moment. She discovered it was deceptively challenging, and did not return.
With each return, the waiter had new commentary, and of course, he sized up Nancy’s progress on the ketchup. In the end, she finished neither the burger nor the keg of ketchup. When it looked like we were finished, he looked over at my clean plate. ” Nice work. You’re okay. I’ll let you leave.” He turned to my wife. He placed his hands on his hips. He sighed.
“She never finishes a burger, ” I said in her defense. He reached over and pretended to struggle to lift the ketchup. He sighed again.
“What happened?” he asked, pointing to the ketchup. I thought you liked ketchup.”
“I do, really. I was dipping AND pouring. It was just too much.”
“I’ve been trying to help,” I offered. “I ate a bunch of her fries, and I’ve been dipping more than usual.”
He looked at me. “I know. I’ve seen you trying, and I appreciate the effort.” He turned back to Nancy, hands on hips, flipping his role from waiter to parent in an instant. “Listen, it’s not that I’m mad. I’m just VERY disappointed.” He proceeded to pantomime Olympic weightlifting as he loaded the cups onto the plates and hauled them away.
“He missed his calling,” Nancy said, watching him stomp away.
“I actually think he’s found just the right event.”
He got a very good tip.