Steven and I had a recent restaurant experience that really bugged me.
Actually, it wasn’t all that recent – it was last spring – but it still bugs me.
We were at one of those zillion restaurants that call themselves “farm-to-table.” This has become shorthand for “the food is so fresh, you can taste it!” In the spirit of that earnest concept, the waiter kept coming over to ask, “how are your flavors tonight?”
I don’t know whether the restaurant made him ask this, forbidding the servers to say anything as pedestrian as “how is everything over here,” or if our waiter had watched too many episodes of Top Chef. Whenever Tom Colicchio likes someone’s food he declares that “the flavors are there.”
This bit of pretension isn’t all that relevant, except that it was Strike One.
Strike Two is what made me decide that our waiter – whom I’ll call “Flavors” – sucked big hairy ones:
At the end of the meal, Steven asked for an amaro. (It’s an after-dinner drink that’s really delicious if you love the taste of cough syrup.) Flavors said, “we don’t have amaro.”
It was the kind of place that would definitely have amaro (they stock it wherever farm-to-table flavors are sold), so Steven asked Flavors to double-check with the bartender.
Flavors went away and came back with a drink list, which he presented to Steven. “As I said, we don’t have amaro. But here’s a list of our drinks if you’d like to choose something else.”
Steven had a clear view of the bar from where he was sitting. He said to Flavors, “You see that bottle on the second shelf from the top, with the white label? That’s amaro. Would you mind asking the bartender for a glass of that?”
Here’s what Flavors could have said:
“Ohhhh! Whoopsie, I didn’t see that there. To tell you the truth, I have no idea what amaro is. I’m so sorry, I’ll go get you some.” If he’d said that, I would have liked him a little bit. Even though he’d asked how our flavors were.
But he didn’t say that.
No “whoopsie,” no “my bad,” no “spank me, I’m a brainless dingleberry.” Any of those would have been acceptable.
Instead, he said: “Well, it’s not on the menu, but I’ll be happy to ask the bartender to pour you some.”
Like he’d known it was there all along, but it just wasn’t up for discussion.
I get it. It’s painful to admit you’re wrong.
Eating crow sucks. Even when it’s farm-raised crow and the flavors are there. But saying, “you were right” or “I’m a dumdum” – especially when you know it’s true – is such an effective way to make everyone a winner. It’s a great practice in business, friendship, and marriage. Here are the benefits:
- Once you establish that you’re the idiot, you no longer have to worry about looking like one. It’s done.
- The other person is less smug about being right, because you gave it to them. What’s the fun of saying “told you so” when someone’s already said, “you told me so”?
- The other person likes you more. Which, if you’re a waiter, means a bigger tip.
For a while I was going to a culty, self-helpy workshop thingy where the leaders liked to say, “You can live in the Right House, or in the Alive House.” This phrasing makes me barf, and I picture both those spaces as cardboard playhouses in someone’s yard, but the essence of it is true. Being right buys you nothing. And unless you’re in court being sued or accused of a crime, letting the other person be right costs you nothing.
Am I wrong? Tell me in the comments.
By the way: If I am wrong, I will admit it wearing a silly red scarf to divert attention from my wrongness.