I’m with Stupid

“What’s up with Table 2?” Holly, the hostess asks me.

“What about table 2?”

“They didn’t want to sit in your section.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know why.”

I look over at Table 2. A cute brown-haired woman and her boyfriend are intently studying their menus. Oh shit. I remember them.

“Those two people do not like me,” I say.

“Why not?” Holly asks.

“Because I make them feel stupid.”


“The woman told Fluvio that I corrected her when she mispronounced something on the menu. She said that made her feel dumb.”

“Are you serious?” Holly says. “That made her feel stupid?”


“Then maybe she is stupid.”

“You might have a point there.”

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Holly says proudly.

“Eleanor Roosevelt,” I reply. “Very good.”

Holly smiles at me. “She was right.”

“I guess so.”

I go back to my section. I feel bad. The couple on table 2 are actually nice people. And, to be honest, I’m a bit of a pedantic bore. I’ve always corrected mispronunciations – even before I was a waiter. Chalk it up to having an English teacher as a father.

But my pedantic streak is more characterological than that. Before I entered Seminary I took one of those aptitude tests – you know, to see what job I might be good at. Being a minister was number five on the list. Speech pathologist was numero uno. Fourteen years later I made an abortive effort to transition careers using the services of an overpriced job coach. After retaking the same aptitude test fourteen years later, guess what? I should’ve become a speech pathologist.

Trust me, becoming a waiter was nowhere on that list.

So it should come as no surprise that I correct Yuppies when they verbally strangle “tagliatelle puttanesca”or “pollo con carciofi”. Besides, these people are always telling me they summer in Tuscany anyway.

Sometimes I can be an arrogant waiter. I’ll cop to that. But when I repeat back an order to a customer using a menu item’s correct pronunciation I’m not trying to be a prick. I I‘m trying to make sure I got your order right. If I see a customer begin to look embarrassed I knew how to say something they didn’t I quickly mention how it took me months to master saying “Pappardelle Bolognese.” Sometimes customers have corrected my mispronunciations. And you know what? I’m grateful for it. I hate mispronouncing words. It’s like walking around with toilet paper stuck to your shoe or stuff hanging out of your nose. Yeah it’s embarrassing. But I’d rather have someone tell me about the TP and boogers than let me walk around looking like a moron.

But this girl says I make her feel stupid because I can pronounce Pappardelle Cinghiale and she can’t? Gimme a break. She and her boyfriend look like the usual upwardly mobile attractive power couple types. I made them feel dumb? Was it what I said? How I said it? No matter – I can make successful people feel stupid.

I never knew that I, a humble waiter, held the keys to such power.


15 thoughts on “I’m with Stupid”

  1. Rachel says:

    Isn’t your dad a history teacher?

    I just read through the archives and it was the one where you visited all the places presidents had been assassinated.

    Oh yeah! But I love your blog! I work as a hostess in a restaurant, but its never very busy, I don’t get many rude people, and the managers are usually nice. Its actually the waiters that make me mad. There’s this one girl who is was bitching at me today because I sat her while she was busy smoking. (They aren’t allowed to have smoke breaks without asking the manager, and she didn’t.) The manager came over and saw me skip her section so I tried to cover for her by saying I accidentally skipped her and sat the next people who came over in her section. And she got mad at me! Ugh. Annoying.

    Sorry for my little rant. =)

  2. Fellow Pedant says:

    As the son of an English teacher, you should have a better command of your apostrophes!

    An apostrophe does not a plural make!

    This is a great blog, but I have noticed that you consistently misuse the humble apostrophe.

  3. Laura Filipchuk says:

    I love it when people correct my pronunciation as long as they do it politely or kindly. Actually, I’d rather be made fun of and corrected than have my mispronunciation remain.

  4. Dewi Morgan says:

    The quotes are what get me: nonspoken sections of text, in quote marks. They’re wrong too often for it to be accidental, and the rest of the writing is too tight for such a mistake to be due to misunderstanding of punctuation.

    Personally, I’m putting it down to a broken search/replace to fix quotes, or something softwarey like that.

  5. Kris says:

    I would have just looked at the menu, pointed to it, and simply said, “I want that thing.”

    To which you would have replied, “The Pappardelle Cinghiale?”

    “Yeah, that.”

    Lmao just goes to show you how some people suck. You made them feel stupid by simply correcting them? Please…haha they must suffer through out the day then.

  6. KD says:

    I hate when people point to the menu and say “I’ll have that thing.” It makes them look really dumb in my eyes. If they would make an effort to pronounce the menu item I wouldn’t think that.

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  8. leithold says:

    nah,i agree with Kris. Its better to point at the item on the menu than to try (and probably fail) to pronounce it. Then once you have the correct pronunciation from the waiter, you can say it correctly next time. its smarter to actually learn first than to try to fake knowledge.

  9. Stew says:

    I work at a casino resort in Canada. I kept getting this jerk off as a “guest”. If you were lucky he would even make eye contact with you when he ordered. I never minded the guy that much. I work in a place with many difficult customers. One day he comes in a barks “super-modified” order at me through the 7 rotten teeth he has left in his face; “a Ruben sandwich. Make sure it is open faced! I don’t want the bread burnt. Put the Russian dressing on the side. I want coleslaw instead of sauerkraut, and instead of fries I want a double order of Mushrooms” He makes sure to remind me that they always burn his bread so I should make note of it. I went and told the kitchen. They made the sandwich to my exact specifications. I bring it out to the guy and put it down in front of him and he starts picking at it and inspecting it for quality. He looks at me and says “I said not to burn it” I was sure he was kidding because it was, what I would call “perfectly toasted”. I replied “it’s not burnt. It is toasted perfectly” He stares right through me and says “Toasted and burnt are the same thing. Why do you pay attention next time” He ate the whole thing then complained to my manager, got it compted and never sat in my section again. Asshole!!!

  10. Kate says:

    Haha, I agree with Fellow Pedant – I do see a few naughty apostrophes sneaking in where they shouldn’t, and some too/to mixups. But I’m more willing to forgive these in your blog because your overall writing style makes your intelligence shine through and it’s possible these occasional lapses are just typos, which we all have. 🙂

    “I’m a bit of a pedantic bore. I’ve always corrected mispronunciations – even before I was a waiter. Chalk it up to having an English teacher as a father.”

    Hahaha this made me laugh, my mum was an English teacher too. I have to resist the urge to correct customers’ pronunciation sometimes, in situations where I know I’ve ordered the right book, and correcting them will only make me look like a douche.

    (But SRSLY, how can so many people have made it past high school age and pronounce Mao’s Last Dancer as ‘Mayo’s Last Dancer’? He is not a condiment! It doesn’t take a Chinese course to know how to pronounce this. Didn’t you learn any 20th century history at all? o.O

  11. Beatrice says:

    I just finished your book. I was so absolutely captivated by it that I read it through the night, finally putting it down at 5am once I had finished it in one shot. Working as a server in a big Canadian city, I could more than relate to your experience.

    But I digress.

    I work at an upscale Japanese restaurant, which of course attracts assholes like moths to a flame. Of course, the average patron cannot properly pronounce the ingredients. Fine.
    I recently had a haughty woman seated at a fourtop with her husband and another couple do the ordering for the table, since the restaurant is communial dining. She was one of those “Uh, no, I don’t think so. I don’t do shellfish/raw fish/quail” types who completely shot down every recommendation. Assertive, rude. Anyways, she was confidently pronouncing the word “miso” as “misU”…when I used the word correctly while referring to a dish, she grew extremely offended and obviously complained. Thank Moses she wasn’t paying. I think about that encounter far too often.

  12. Kelsey says:

    The best is when you get the couple who comes in, obviously on a first or second date and the man wants to order a few expensive glasses of wine to impress his lady friend. I once had a guy educating his date on all the wine types, flavors, aroma and pretending like he knew everything about the authentic Italian wine our Wine Bar served and he pronounced just about every wine wrong except for “chianti”. He had no idea what he was talking about. I could’ve been a jerk and repeated the wine back to him correctly pronounced but figured doing that would make him look incompetent and foolish in front of his date and in return that would reflect my tip in a negative way – so I continued to listen to him incorrectly pronounce the wine all night just so he could impress his date.

    Whenever I’m ordering something I’m not sure of, I will attempt to pronounce it correctly and then ask my server if that’s the correct way to pronounce it. I would never be offended and ask to be seated in a different section just because a waiter pronounced the dish the correct way.

    Great blog – I’m a huge fan 🙂

  13. Krusticle says:

    Ha! Fellow Pedant, I thought the same thing! Love Waiter’s blog (I’m catching up on the archives here), but have notice the appalling use of punctuation (or lack thereof). Damn you, high-school English teacher Mrs. McCool for drilling it into my head!

  14. lvfrankg says:

    It is so annoying when someone doesn’t know a foreign language. If only these lowly commoners had been through server training as I have, alas. I wouldn’t have to “let” them sit there and mangle the names of wine I’ve been told to learn. It is so tough being a server. The conflict. I’m always torn between fulfilling my promise to provide service to people as per my job description, and talking shit about them behind their backs, or finding ways to assert myself in a way that demonstrates I am not a result of poor vocational choices. Because I’m smart. I’m only a server because the money is good, and I really do gain satisfaction from “taking care of people.”
    Although server wasn’t on any “What I want to be when I grow up.” lists of my childhood, I’m here by choice. This job is positively wonderful. No matter what happens, I’m justified. I can give you bad service if I deem you a prick, (and my observational skills are uncanny, because I’m a waiter.) I will simply explain your complaint away to the manager by letting him know your personality didn’t suit me, and all will be excused. On the flip side, if your stupidity doesn’t get the better of you at tip time, I gain great personal satisfaction from knowing I was so good, an asshole tipped me well. Don’t get me wrong, there are customers who relate to me within my level of tolerance, and I like them. I really do.
    This job is great on many other levels. Mentally, a monkey could do it, but somehow we’ve been able to convince people that it requires exceptional organizational skills, and is really hard work. It’s true! Do you have any idea how many silverware roll-ups I have to do before I can leave? Of course, I will need to smoke, and gossip for 20 minutes before I start. Maybe the busser will do the roll-ups if I give him $3. I can’t stay here too long, my percoset dealer is going to bed soon.

  15. Noelle says:

    Given that you’ve said you really like to be corrected when you make a mistake with English, I’d like to let you know that your have a poor grammatical grasp of comma usage. I’d definitely take an hour or so to brush up on when to use them using Grammarly.com or another site.

    Other than that, your writing is fantastic.

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