Monday, January 26, 2009

Write That Down.

Listening to a list of the nightly specials at restaurants has started to make me feel uncomfortable. Due to the complexity of the food some restaurants now serve, it's become a Top Chef story hour of ingredients and preparation techniques as the server tells a tale about where each dish was locally harvested and why there's foam on the plate. The overuse of adjectives doesn't help either. I have no idea what an auspicious salad is supposed to taste like.

Hearing, "Let me tell you about tonight's specials" gives me the same feeling I get when a person starts to sing or play the flute on the subway. OK, this might be awhile. Should I look at you? Should I look away? Should I nod at everything you say or smile when you name something I like? Should I interrupt your flow of information with an "Oooh, that sounds good" or hold that until the end?

There must be some sort of unwritten rule for handling this. There seems to be an unwritten rule for almost everything else.

People love talking about unwritten rules. I think it's because the lack of solid evidence frees them to make any claim they want. "I'm sorry, but if the car in front of you leaves their blinker on for more than a mile, you're allowed to rear end them. That's just an unwritten rule."
You can learn a lot about a person through the unwritten rules they mention--and also by looking at the front of their car.

It's amazing how many lists of unwritten rules are posted on the internet.

"12 Unwritten Rules of Cellphone Etiquette."
"The Unwritten Rules of Movie Watching."
"25 Unwritten Rules For Writing Rules That Should Remain Unwritten: A Novel."

Everyone has their personal favorite. Unwritten rules for travel, waiting in line, eating. Years ago I learned about the unwritten rules of Bingo. I won't pretend to know anything about Bingo Etiquette except to say that it exists and involves a dauber. Note: If you ever want to get kicked out of a Catholic school's basement during a Wednesday night game of Bingo, call a false Bingo twice in a row. How do people not know you're joking when you shout "Bingo!" after the first number is called?

Elevator Etiquette is one of the unwritten universals. Nothing brings people together on the rules of social behavior quite like standing in vertical transport with strangers. Save for that lone weirdo, we all agree that an elevator trip is life's pause button. Who we are, what we're doing, where we're going, where we've been--it's all canceled out on the elevator. Maybe because lifts were originally meant for freight we all just assume that role.

Some people nod when entering an elevator as if to say, "I'm entering the elevator now" and most people will nod back in confirmation, "Yes, you are." A fake smile is often used here as well. More of a frown than a smile, an elevator fake smile never exposes teeth and it states in the quietest way possible, don't talk to me.

It blows my mind when couples say they met on an elevator. Seriously? How?
The danger is that an elevator ride can make anyone who says more than, "floor?" seem like a charming wordsmith. These are usually the same couples who a few months into the relationship complain they they're having trouble communicating.

Most unwritten rules boil down to one of two things: Be quiet or show up with wine. So I guess I need to start looking for mime restaurants with a corkage fee. No lengthy explanations, just nightly specials trapped in a box or being pulled from the kitchen with invisible rope.


Anonymous said...

I love Top Chef, it makes me want to try hicima. I have no idea what it is but they use it in everything.I also read that it can be used as a decorative addition to parade floats. Seriously.

The only bad part about Top Chef is that they insist on trying to make food sound fancier than it is..and on the side we have a bit of mash and some haricot vert. Oh, so you made mashed potatoes and green beans. Call it what it is! I want Fabio to win, mainly for the way he pronounces "dragon"

Jess said...

the hotel I used to work for had tons of food like that. One time I was on the phone with the most annoying woman in the world and she wanted me to describe everything. I spent 20 minutes explaining coulis and compote, and trying to describe tom yum.

Finally in this exaggerated British accent she goes, "And what is the... kid's hot dog?"
and I'm like, "It's a hot dog."