Despite my very best efforts to avoid adopting any American-isms whatsoever during my annee etrange (and I think I've done quite well - if anything I'm more British than I was six months ago), just last week I allowed that most cliched of cliches to escape my lips last week while bidding farewell to a friend's mother. I wish I could pretend that it was an ironic slip of the tounge but sadly t'was not the case. I said it. I meant it. And dag nammit I'm gonna defend it.
We've all heard this phrase said a thousand times in a thousand American movies. And oh how we have mocked it: for it's apparent lack of sincerity; for being a lazy attempt at manipulating a few more dollars out of our pockets with false platitudes; for the surgically applied smile that comes with it.
Nonetheless I've grown accustomed to it. Over my many and far too frequent visits to restaurants and bars that little token of insincerity feels like one of those after dinner mints that you pick up as you're on your way out the door. While I'm still far too cynical to believe that the waiter or barman (let's be honest, more often than not it's a barman) is really all that bothered about how my day or evening goes, in contrast with back home in Britain you at least feel like they are not secretly wishing that you will fall down an open man-hole cover (does anyone know an example of where that has actually happened or is it just in loony tunes?) or get hit by a taxi as you cross the street.
Having worked in several service-sector places of employment in my time I can say that with some authority. At the delightful beach bar I worked at over the summer the house motto was not "the customer is always right" but rather "the customer is always a......" - anyway, you get the idea. (BTW over Christmas I was (rightly) reprimanded by my Aunt Pauline for my employment of "colourful" language in m' blog so, at her behest, I resolve in the coming semester to keep it to a minimum.)
Last night Katie, Dave Mason (Sussex-er visiting DC for a few days from Lousiana State University) and I were taken out for a delightful meal with Mark "Sparky" Wilson (another Sussex-er who's currently studying at the University of Texas) by his immensely affable and far too generous parents. The restaurant was Pappa Razzi and easily the flashest eatery I've been to in America.
My point (and I do have one, it all links together if you're patient. Honest.) is about Bill. Bill was our waiter for the evening who came over to our table and immediately introduced himself. As Bill. He then proceeded to go through the long and obviously very well rehearsed list of specials. Unfortunately, five minutes later i couldn't remember a word of what he'd said. Other than the fact that his name was Bill. It felt like we'd all made a friend. In Britain you're lucky if you get service with a hungover grimace let alone a smile. In America it's service with a relationship.