In restaurants, I know I am always in the wrong. I am sure of it. And yet in a terrible act of deceit none will admit it to me.
The waiters, they cater to my every command, my every question. They remove and replace dishes that are out of line with my specifications, even though they contain perfectly good food. I am an inconvenience, a useless blot on the smooth sociality of the restaurant space, and yet they conform themselves to my sin.
There are some waiters it is true, who pursue their line of work without care. They repeat a minimum of stock lines in an emotionless voice, and plop things down unceremoniously. They seem on the verge of admitting the absurdity of this stupid sham, whereby I, a stranger, reveal my ignorance of the ways of the restaurant and my audacity in persisting to demand that I have things my way. Yet, they retain the modicum of decorum needed to keep things going as usual, that is, to keep me in my bothersome track.
I have some friends of the more affluent, socially respectable type (a class whose coattails I hang on as an imposter, I know), who value this thing at dining places known as “good service.” They mean waiters who are as crisp as themselves, but not as flamboyant, waiters who are competent, knowledgeable, continually agreeable and personable, who are attentive and speedy in tending to any details that might arise over the course of the meal. Such waiters, in contrast to the just bearable type I described before, are devoted to the utmost maintenance of the respectability of the experience, to the certitude of the illusion that there is not some great wrong being perpetrated for me. No, it is perpetrated by me. In such places with “good service” the falsity of it all is so obvious and my shame so great, for I cannot be more flamboyant, more presentable than the staff, I cannot, and even worse, do not desire to, at my core, put on the respectability that is the divine standard and joy of such places. There I am revealed to be deeply impure, unclean in a holy space, in need of the most drastic reform, or otherwise to be thrown out.
But they do not express any such thing! They do not toss me to the street! They allow me, a doddering fool, a slob, a heedless and ill-advised jester, to continually gum up the works they have devoted themselves to cleaning. They become thralls to my crime, my imperfection, and so I fall deeper into it.
My gentlest reader, I am not accusing these fine servers of aiding and abetting in my depravity, of forcibly placing me in the den of sin, for which, you might say, I would be blameless. No. It is my fault, for not being the perfect patron like those seated all around the restaurant, whose blissful and untroubled expressions reveal their unity with the flow of the restaurant. They serve an equal purpose to the waiters in the glorious work of the eatery. They do not conceal a guilt, because they do not have a guilt. They know what they are doing well and act in perfect concert with everything else on the scene. Even if there should be a mishap, a spilled drink, a burnt bun, they are part of the system, and there are measures in place to correct for the slight slippage in the gears of dining.
But in my case, I am willfully inserting myself, a dirty pebble into the golden teeth of the gears, wreaking havoc that demands additional unreasonable expense of energy to repair. So, reader, when I said, “yet in a terrible act of deceit none will admit it to me,” I mean only that is terrible in that it deeply tragic that the servers cannot escape the chaos I bring and toss me out ahead of time and instead persist in this great falsity that I am not wrong.
And so, my shame compounds and compounds as this modern social world demands or expects I return to these places where my depravity goes on display and yet only grows more depraved. I expect no forgiveness, and it is mere cowardice that I have not yet exiled myself to a hermitage.