The Role: The kind of ostentatiously picky eater who hacks any given menu into shreds and reassembles it into a post-modern interpretation of the entrée list. Think Niles Crane from Frasier, who routinely micro-manages orders like hazelnut lattes with “a whisper of cinnamon – NOT A SCREAM!”
The Actor: One of the pickiest eaters on the planet, true, but one who tries to respect that line cooks are humans who might just have greater concerns than whether my medium-rare steak is the precise hue of a maidenly blush.
The Scene: An upscale burger and beer bar, dining with my best friends and ex-boyfriend. While they gaily chattered about their days, I studied the menu with increasing dismay, striking whole pages at a single glance. Let’s see: no lettuce or tomato, obviously; no mushroom; no mayo-based sauces; dairy and condiments must be separated by a vegetable layer — the ordeal of picking a simple burger read like an LSAT practice problem.
Frig it, I decided. I’m going to order off the big-kid menu for once.
Cute little waitress skipped to our table, and nodded through my friends’ orders — no pad or writing utensil in sight. That didn’t bode well. Her smile faltered when I launched into my request: “Southwest burger, but turkey instead of beef, no lettuce or tomato, definitely no aioli, extra side of barbecue, double onions — and can we switch that to the challah roll? Oh, and half rings, half fries. Obviously.”
Round the first: After about twenty minutes, the waitress floated over, weighed down with four plates of food. Three of them were perfect. And then there was mine: well appointed, to be sure, but moo instead of cluck. Flagged the waitress, who ran up, still perky.
“Sorry, there’s a little problem with my burger. I ordered turkey. I don’t eat beef.”
“Religious reasons? Or can you eat it anyway?” she asked, in a coaxing tone, eyeing the long walk back to the kitchen. Sorry, sweetness, but no dice. Sending back the first attempt is practically how I say hello to a new restaurant.
Round the second: After half an hour of purloining my friends’ fries, out rushed a piping hot turkey burger. Dripping with mayonnaise and crammed sky-high with raw tomato and shredded lettuce. The restaurant was filling up and my heart physically ached when I flagged the waitress down again to explain that I couldn’t eat it.
“Can’t you just scrape it off?” she sighed. “Or are you allergic or something?” I offered to pay for the replacement. She kindly refrained from smashing the plate into my head.
Round the third: This time, the chef took no chances. Bun. Turkey. Cheese. And that’s all she wrote. By this time, my companions were pushing the left-out-of-politeness fries around their plates. Called the fuming waitress over one more time. “This burger isn’t feeling too southwestern. Would you mind bringing the rest of the toppings on the side?”
And thus, ten minutes after everyone else had eaten their last bite, I came in possession of the perfect burger. Five minutes later, the bill arrived. And I didn’t just tip — I damn near capsized.
The Review: Two (blessedly non-mayo-smeared) thumbs way down. Aggressively fastidious orderers in movies and TV shows come across as quirky and endearing. In real life? You’re just the needy jackass whose irrational lettuce-phobia rallies the kitchen around a common enemy. And that’s the key difference: screen waitresses are bit players with no backstory, no intrigue, and barely any on-screen dialogue. Real servers, on the other hand, are currently starring in their own dramas, and have more pressing concerns than playing the butt of an overly long gag. I guess next time I’ll stick to the kid’s menu.
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