Ravenously waiting while menu peruser picks entree

July 07, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

AS IS MADE obvious again and again over the years, there is nothing more annoying than dining out with someone who can't decide what to order.

You know how this whole thing goes, of course.

Let's say you've just been seated at a restaurant with, oh, your sister-in-law and her husband, to pick a purely hypothetical situation.

The server chirps out the specials, takes your drink order and leaves you with the menus.

A few minutes later, the server's back with the drinks and asks: "Everyone ready to order?"

You look around the table.

Sure, everyone's ready to order. Well, everyone except one person.

That's the person who's still concentrating so hard on the menu you're afraid blood will start seeping from her forehead.

"Could you give us a few more minutes?" this person says to the server.

Sure, the server says with a smile, somehow translating this to mean: Could you disappear for a half-hour and not even fill the water glasses or bring bread?

So now, while everyone else at the table is dying of hunger, this person goes back to studying the menu like it's the original New Testament.

This is something I could never understand.

How long do you possibly need to make up your mind about food?

It shouldn't be that tough, should it?

Look, you're not deciding on a name for your first-born here.

You're not agonizing over whether to donate a kidney.

You're not trying to figure out who gets what in your will.

You're just choosing an entree.

(OK, maybe an appetizer, too. Although I realize that ratchets up the pressure considerably.)

The point is: how hard can this be?

Just make a decision, OK?

Don't over-think the whole thing.

Yet often, even after studying the menu for a few more minutes, the person who can't make up her mind will still be unable to arrive at a decision.

Now comes the ultimate sign of desperation.

Because at this point, the person will go around the table and ask everyone: "What are you having?"

That's another thing I've never understood.

If you're trying to decide what to eat, what difference does it make what someone else is having?

Is this going to have an influence on you?

Are you going to have the grilled salmon just because I'm having the grilled salmon?

That's a little like a food version of the Stockholm Syndrome, isn't it?

It seems to me that if you're going through life ordering only what foods others order, a session or two of assertiveness training would prove helpful, and possibly some full-scale analysis, as well.

Of course, asking others what they're having is just another stalling tactic, another ploy to avoid looking at the menu again and making a decision.

Even after all this, though, the person who can't make up her mind will find a way to wait until the very last second before deciding on an entree.

Because when the server finally re-appears after a half-hour to take everyone's order, the person who can't make up her mind will wave her hand at the others at the table and say: "Take their orders first."

This, of course, is the most desperate - and pathetic - stalling tactic of all.

For one thing, it implies that in the 30 seconds or so that it takes for the others at the table to order, the choice of whether to go with steak or fish, pasta or vegetable medley, will finally emerge from the ether, from the Muse, from somewhere.

A few more seconds, that's all I need, is the unspoken message.

Is that so unreasonable?

No, of course not.

And so finally, pressed against the wall (figuratively speaking, anyway), with the server impatiently tapping pencil to pad and the others at the table drumming their fingertips against their bread plates, ready to strangle her, the person who can't make up her mind -- ta-daaaa! - makes up her mind.

"I'll go with the pasta," she tells the server at last.

Then, to the others at the table: "It was my first choice all along."

Great.

We're all thrilled for you.

And to think the dessert menu beckons after this.

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