Saturday, March 13, 2010

"What's your name? What's your name? What's your name? I asked you three times!"

I don't stand on formality all that much. At 6'5", I don't really need to. But I am always on the fence about being called anything but "Mark." Anytime anyone calls me "Mister" I always look around to see if my father had come back from the great beyond and is standing behind me (probably shaking his head at my latest antic.) We don't frequent the sort of restaurants where the maitre-d' is apt to refer to us as "Sir" and "Madam." He or she usually just says, "Two?" while grabbing a couple of menus, and that's fine. We ain't made for the Ritz, I'll tell you that right now.

On the other hand, I find it odd that telephone salespeople always like to call me by my first name. I know why they do it; it gives them the feeling of familiarity, making me feel like I've been friends forever with this guy or gal who wishes to sell me long-distance service, aluminum siding, or a congressional candidate. Puckish to the end, I like to let them think there's a chance in East Hades that I am buyin' what they're sellin', until the very end, when I ask if it's OK to pay in livestock or Boston lettuce, as I have "rejected the artificial currency of Greenspan and Bernanke, and replaced it with my own forms of barter and swap." That usually wraps things up quickly.

To those few telemarketers brave enough to break federal law by calling while I'm trying to cook dinner, I like to ask where they are, and then, no matter what city houses the huge room full of other people on telephone headsets where they are working, I say, "I knew a guy from there once! His name was Fernando! Do you know him? Lovely chap, simply divine. His people came from money, as I recall. His father was a Brownington from Brattleboro, or maybe the other way around, I don't know. His father's father had been one of the leading nepotists in their county, and often ran for,and from, Congress. I'm fairly certain he was Capricorn, too, as I believe you to be..."

Quick note: I not only don't know from nothin' about astrology, I also don't know from cosmetology, microbiology or reflexology. And all I know about astronomy is that I often went mooning as a younger man.

For tomorrow: please think this over. In American restaurant dining, we have a tradition known as "paying someone else's employee," or tipping. It's actually more fair, when you think about it. Let's say you go out for dinner.

"You go out for dinner."

Now let's say the bill comes. If the service was friendly, professional, speedy and considerate - the waitperson offered drink refills, checked back to see if everything was ok, offered to Simoniz the VistaCruiser while you had dessert - then you are inclined to tip that person more generously than if the service had been desultory, slow, and the soup was cold. That better waiter makes more money and soon opens a chain of diners for him-or-herself, working 17 hours a day slinging hash browns, while the sloppy inattentive waiter is forced to live off the multi-million dollar trust fund left to him by his Uncle Fernando from Brattleboro.

And that, class, is why capitalism is so full of success stories.

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