Before he got, as they say, “big in features”, Judd Apatow served, as I did, as a “Creative Consultant” on The Larry Sanders Show. What I remember about Judd was three things: One, he was extremely well connected (at my request, Judd secured Anna two hard-to-get tickets to a Stone Temple Pilots concert, a band Anna adored, and I never heard of.)
The second memorable attribute was that Judd Apatow would regularly pitch outlandish jokes, virtually none of which were remotely funny. After which – arguably his most memorable attribute of all – Apatow would immediately cry out,
“Who’s with me!”
A call to arms that would invariably be greeted with deadly silence.
Nobody was with him.
Nor should they have been.
That was the most indelible Apatow memory on The Larry Sanders Show. The always desperate-sounding, “Who’s with me!” And then,
I know the feeling.
I experience it when I appropriate this blog to rail against some disturbing situation, and the response to my position is zero.
I most recently experienced this echo chamber of empty support while taking a stand against people who slip their sunglasses into the top of their Polo shirts, and people who drape their sweaters over their shoulders and knot them in the front, rather than putting them all the way on.
Nobody cared. Nobody – as reflected by the zero comments on that posting –
Was with me.
Well, I’m nothing if not foolhardy. So here I go again.
I’m sure this has happened to all of you, so there’s, you know, an identifiable, common experience. Whether you agree with my reaction is up to you. I am hoping, of course, that you will.
We’re sitting in a restaurant. The waiter comes over to take our order. Dr. M orders first. The waiter, recording her selection on his pad, responds:
“An excellent choice.”
The waiter then turns to me, his pen poised to take down my order.
I am now on the spot. My wife has just ordered a selection, which, according to the waiter at least, has been deemed, “an excellent choice.” I am targeted with the “follow-up.”
The heat is definitely on. Will my selection meet with an equally positive response? Or will the only sound I hear be a pen, scratching deafeningly on an order pad?
Steak salad. That’s what I wanted. That’s what looked good to me. But, I wondered – or maybe “worried” is the better word – “Is steak salad anywhere close to ‘an excellent choice’?”
It’s pretty ordinary, steak salad. Unless they make a particularly excellent steak salad. And how could they?
What can you do to a steak salad? It’s steak. And it’s salad.
I am seriously reconsidering my order, so I too can have it conferred with the ultimate “Waiter’s Accolade”:
“An excellent choice.”
There are two problems here. There is no way to predict which selection on the menu this waiter will consider “an excellent choice.” Is it something exotic like the “Freshly ground ostrich burger”? Or is it a dish that this restaurant happens to excel at, which I couldn’t possibly guess, because I’ve never eaten there before, I have not read about the place, and have gotten no “heads up” about it from others?
“If you dine at Pepe’s, you simply must order the catfish ravioli!”
I could choose the same thing Dr. M ordered, which has already been anointed, “an excellent choice.” But deliberate copycatting? How is there anything “excellent” about that?
And then there’s this other troubling question:
The waiter’s credibility.
What makes this guy an expert on excellent choices? “He’s a waiter. The man knows about food.” Really? Then there’s, “The man works here. He knows what they do best.” I see. And if I order something they stink at, will he just as readily divert me from “a horrible choice”?
What if this is just some self-serving, waitperson’s strategy, a flattering puffball he throws off just to butter the customers up? How deep does this recommendation go? Is there some serious judgment involved, or will he “excellent choice” you no matter what you order?
Another possibility is there’s a hidden meaning to “an excellent choice”, like, it’s an excellent choice, because it’s actually the worst thing the restaurant makes, but the waiter gets a bonus every time somebody orders it, ostensibly for pushing it, but in Dr. M’s case it happened spontaneously, and what can be more “excellent” – from the waiter’s perspective, that is – than that?
Or it could be a question of “preemptive conditioning.” The food tastes terrible, but the diner thinks, “I must be wrong, because the waiter said it was an excellent choice.”
All these thoughts are now rampaging through my brain, none of which ever would have dawned on me, if the waiter hadn’t said,
“An excellent choice.”
My position, to all waiters interested in receiving a sizeable tip, from me at least, is this:
Okay. I am on the record here.
Who’s with me?