Wayback Wednesday: I'll Have What She's Having

I'll Have What She's Having

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2003

Every Wednesday, I republish old columns from years past. I've got 16 years of the things sitting in the garage, so they might as well serve some other purpose. This is one originally published in 1999.

I've sometimes considered being a restaurant critic, but I'm worried about the restaurant that delivers shish kebabs William Tell style, so I've held off. Unfortunately most restaurants sell the same items with no great variety, which means the reviews would all end up being the same.

The typical restaurant, assuming it's not a four-star gourmet restaurant, serves some sort of hamburger. They also have chicken, vegetables, and salads. There's no major difference in taste or quality. The biggest difference is the name of the food, which varies wildly from restaurant to restaurant.

Since the hamburger is usually a restaurant's flagship sandwich, it's named after the restaurant or one of its characters. You can order the Big Boy, the Halfback, the Gunslinger, and the Bronco Burger: a quarter-pound hamburger with pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato on a bun.

One of my favorite lunches is a nice Reuben sandwich — corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread. It's a universally recognized sandwich, and one of our local restaurants makes a pretty decent Reuben.

Unfortunately, the restaurant, which has a nautical theme, has named the sandwich the "Shiver Me Timber." As a result, I'm supposed to order the "Shiver Me Timber," and NOT "a Reuben sandwich" whenever I eat there.

It doesn't matter that I order the sandwich so often the waitress has it waiting for me as soon as I walk in the door. And it doesn't matter that everyone else in the free world, including people in Brazilian rain forests who have never seen corned beef, calls this "a Reuben sandwich." They don't even care if I read its menu description ("succulent corned beef lovingly smothered with sharp Swiss cheese, tart sauerkraut, and a huge smear of Thousand Island dressing, layered between two thick slices of fresh rye bread").

What matters is that I call the sandwich by its proper name, the "Shiver Me Timber." But I hate doing it, because it sounds like something Pee Wee Herman got arrested for.

"I'll have the Reuben," I tell the waitress.

"The what?" she asks.

"The Reuben. . . sandwich."

The puzzled look on her face tells me I must have been speaking Ancient Greek and not been aware of it.

I point to that particular item on the menu. "This one."

I can't make her mad; I don't want any "sneezers" mixed in with my Thousand Island dressing.

"Oh, you mean the Shiver Me Timber," she says, as if I've just revealed the secrets of internal combustion to her.

"Yes, that one."

"That what?"

I grit my teeth and try not to cry. "That sandwich."

"Come on, you have to say it," my waitress says in a sing-song voice. I was afraid it was going to come to this. I hang my head and my shoulders quake with silent sobs. I barely gasp out the words, "I'll. . . have. . . the. . . Shiver. . . Me. . . Timber."

I feel so dirty.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" The look on my face tells her not to push her luck, so she goes off to put in my order.

I hear her yell from the kitchen, "Hey Joe, I just broke another one! That's 37 for me this month!"

Now I can put up with the occasional Shiver Me Timber or Big Buoy half-pound hamburger. But what really makes me cringe is ordering off the kids menu. Luckily, most restaurants across North America have the same kid's menu, because my daughter is as predictable as gravity when it comes to restaurants:

"I'll have chicken, French Fries, ketchup, dip," she used to say the way only a parent could understand. Unfortunately, with the exception of our favorite Sunday restaurant (sadly now closed), no one else knows what the heck she's talking about. But it's always the same, no matter where we go.

"What did she say," asks our waitress.

"She'll have the chicken fingers, fries, with Ranch dressing and ketchup on the side," I tell our waitress.

"The what?"

Oh no, not again.

"The chicken fingers and fries?" I ask, hopefully.

A sadistic smile slowly spreads across her face. She shakes her head slowly. I look to my wife for help, who is suddenly engrossed in the color of my daughter's left ear.

"Fine," I say in a clear, loud voice. "I'll have the Lucky Plucky Happy Chicky Delight with Tatie Stripes," reading it directly from the menu. I can clearly see that she's written "chix fngrs, FF" on her notepad, so if she keeps this up, her tip is going to be 4 pennies at the bottom of a full water glass.

She races off toward the kitchen and shouts to her co-workers in the back, "Hey guys, I just hit 50! I set the new record!"

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