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Monday, July 28, 2008

A Waiter by Any Other Name




"Hi! My name is Chris, and I'll be your server!"
We are used to this, here in America.
A waiter in a swank Paris bistro is never going to say, "Bonjour! Je suis Pierre, et je suis votre serveur!"
But here in the melding pot of the Colonies we are all one big, happy precocious family, and a waiter must introduce himself by name. And always only a first name. Never a "Hi, I'm Mrs. McGillicutty, and I'll be your server."
For years, we have resisted the impudent urge to respond to this faux familiarity by introducing everyone seated at the table: "Good to meet you, Chris, I'm Wilber from just down the road, and this is cousin Gertrude, who's visiting from Omaha, and right next to her, of course, is my nephew, Horace, and then there's his dad, whose Christian name is Dudley, but everybody just calls him Bud."
No, we haven't done that, and we would have taken "Chris" in stride the other day had we not looked up and noticed his name tag.
"If your name is Chris, why does your name tag say 'Peter'?"
Chris -- or Peter? -- seemed startled until he glanced down to confirm our observation.
"Well, we're required to wear a name tag and I forgot mine, so I picked the most American-sounding one back there" -- jerk of the thumb toward the kitchen -- "and it was Peter."
"American-sounding?"
"Yeah, all the others were, you know, were like, Carlos and Diego. Like, look at me, nobody's going to believe me if I wear one of those. What am I going to do, walk up and say, "Hola, my name is Juan?"
This was clearly a young man who saw virtue in maintaining the facade of credibility, so we thought to offer this advice: "Why don't you just tell people your name is Peter?"
"Oh, no, I couldn't do that. I just have to be Chris."

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