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Will it just be two today?

I spent the week watching serious news. Things happened, people got into trouble—you couldn’t miss it no matter what you did or where you went.

What say we rest our politics-weary minds from the besetting foolishness; what say we pull back from the big picture. Let’s take the camera that records our lives, move back to wide-frame, and focus down on the small things.

Yes, let’s discuss pet peeves.

We all have them. These are not big-ticket items, they are the smallest minutia of life. These are the irritating flotsam and jetsam, the little bubbles that tickle our nose—and not in a good way. Isn’t it always the little things that set our teeth on edge, call up an involuntary twitch, make us look a little side-eye? So come close, lean in, and listen while I kvetch for a minute.

My non-writing job requires me to drive a good bit. I go from place to place, often dealing with people in high-pressure situations. And I eat lunch on the road a lot.

I keep a book in my Jeep for those sorts of outings, and I find the perfect poultice to be sitting alone in a quiet booth and reading a book while I enjoy a nice lunch. But do most restaurants set up that quiet, calm, moment? Nope.

Nine times out of ten when I walk up to the greeter, rather than actually greeting me they ask: “Will it just be one today?” Don’t even get to the implied pity in choosing the word “just”. I’ve just walked in, I am obviously alone, and she asks, “Just one?” Really? Then I have to respond. How do you answer that?

The same sort of thing happened a few nights ago when I was not alone. I walked into a restaurant with a nice lady, no one else was even around, and the greeter looked at the two of us–the only two people who came in the door–and asked, “Will it just be two?”

Why “just” one or “just” two? How about, “Nice to see you. Table for one?” or “Nice to see you. Table for two?” See the difference? The first response is slightly insulting, the second is, well, pleasant.I know what you are thinking. “Why can’t you be patient with these overworked people? After all, someone could be coming in from the car.” Trust me, if someone were coming in after me I’d likely say something witty like “Nope. One more coming.” At least that way they’d bring both of us forks.

The curmudgeon in me wants to respond. I always have to stop myself. How about the next time it happens I look flustered and say, “No, not just one. I’m the bus driver. We have a group of about forty unaccompanied thirteen-year-olds that will be right behind me.

The police are just finishing giving them a good talking to, and when they come in, please don’t seat them near me.”

Or how about, “Yes. I’m alone today. Sad, no? The reason I came in here is that I’ve heard that when someone comes in alone you people assign someone to sit with them. I assume that’s you. I’m having a bad day and I need someone to talk to and you look so friendly. Which table will we be sitting at?”

Even worse and for the Jimmy Stewart fans out there, “Alone? What makes you think I’m alone? Can’t you see my rabbit friend, Harvey? Harvey, say hello to the nice lady. Table for two, please. Here, take my card.” So, if you are the greeter in a restaurant, and you see a curmudgeon with a big gray beard walk in, you might want to work on your material.

How about a simple, “Hello? Thanks for coming.” Otherwise, you might just unleash my inner raconteur.

And he’s better left sitting in the bus with the other thirteen-year-olds.