Haughty Cuisine

By Dave Barry

Proper etiquette when dining out is very important. I was reminded of this when taken to lunch at one of those French restaurants with a name like "La Bunche de Oueenies," the kind of restaurant where even the dishwasher wears a tuxedo and they have apparently run low on food because they're selling it by the individual molecule. Also, no matter how empty the restaurant is, the maitre d' always acts as though he's not sure if he can find a table for a lowlife such as yourself because any minute now he expects Jaqueline Onassis to arrive accompanied by Prince Charles and the U.S. Supreme Court.

This kind of restaurant is the ideal place to learn the rules of dining etiquette. I got a lesson right away because I wasn't wearing a tie. I hardly do except when something tragic happens, such as a close friend and loved one dies owing me money. I oppose ties on medical grounds - they cut off the circulation to your brain. La Bunche de Oueenies, it turns out, has a mandatory tie rule, the idea being that when the bill arrives, your brain will contain so little oxygen that you will cheerfully pay it without ever noticing that for the same money you could have retired.

You could imagine how grateful I was to learn that even though I was dressed incorrectly, the maitre d' was very graciously not going to do anything about it except say, in a voice loud enough for all to hear, "I SHOULD ask you to wear a tie, but I will not." I just sat and stared at the top menu item ("La Teensi Piece de Meate sur le Humongeuse Plate") and wished life had a rewind button so that I could make the world go backward - zzzzzzzip - and get a chance to use that clever remark I didn't think up until it was too late. At that moment, I would have pressed the button.

"I SHOULD," I retort with a smile, "pour be'arnaise sauce on your oil-slicked head, but I will not."