Sunday, March 22, 2009

No Problem and Emanuel's Middle Finger

It was a simple enough request.

We were out at our traditional Sunday morning breakfast (and in this case, "we" as in three of us rather than the "royal we" for which we are sometimes criticized). "May we have some more napkins?" we asked (the royal we). It seems our sons had spilled chocolate milk, as they are apt to do.

"Sure," the server responded. That he didn't offer a simple "yes" or "yes, sir" is only the beginning of the problem.

When he delivered the napkins, the three of us all said "thank you." Even the four-year-old. We thank his mother for such excellent training.

This is where the real problem begins, and dear readers, it's sufficiently widespread as to qualify as an epidemic.

"No problem," responded the server.

We did not think that a simple request for napkins could even be construed as a problem. We did not think that such a trivial act as delivering napkins -- a clear part of the server's profession -- could possibly be an imposition...nor could the delivery of hot sauce, syrup, more decaf, or even the check. We would expect that the server would perform these parts of his job with great pride.

Yet, after we asked for each of these, after each was delivered, and we thanked the server, we received the same response.

"No problem."

That the response isn't "you're welcome" or as the high standard of service Ritz-Carlton staff is trained to respond, "it's my pleasure" is, in fact, the problem.

We're not advocating unnecessary formality. Just a little bit of etiquette. Thank you for using it. And you're welcome for having us point it out to add one more little thing to your "things that annoy me even though I hadn't noticed before" list.

On an entirely unrelated topic, we read in a recent issue of The New Yorker (as we noted before, just because we disagree with Hendrick Hertzberg doesn't mean we don't read him, although we note with open-minded horror that some of our friends who tilt left refuse to read those with whom they might disagree -- who's closed-minded now?) that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel lost part of his middle finger in a childhood accident. President Obama noted in a roast of Emanuel that the accident "rendered Emanuel nearly mute."

We are still trying to get the coffee out of our sinuses from the laugh we had over that one.


David said...

i'm so glad you've addressed the "no problem" issue. is it a generational thing? it seems as if no one under 30 was taught that the proper response to "thank you" in most circumstances is "you're welcome", particularly when a person's JOB is to render service. i often feel like saying, "i know it's not a problem, but thank you anyway." but i was raised to fume silently at the faux pas of others.

"no problem" IS appropriate if someone has gone out of their way to render a service, e.g. the kind lady at the table next to you offered HER napkin to help you out. you would say "thank you" and she could say "no problem", thereby graciously letting you off the hook for the behavior of your unruly children.

Bruce said...

It's Emanuel, as in "God is with us" (Isaiah 7:14), not Immanuel, as in Kant.

Anonymous said...

When did you turn into an old lady?

Oh, and the Rahm thing was filmed. You can find it on youtube.

-- Sarah (I can't be bothered to create a new identity with Google. I'm lazy that way. Hope it's not a problem.)