Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Intractable Problem

When I have a meal in a restaurant, I will usually order a diet cola, because I don't care which kind they have, but mostly because there's nothing I can do about it since most places only have one kind of diet pop (or "soda" if you hail from the south), and that's cola.

Invariably I get either the question, "Is diet Pepsi OK?" or "Is diet Coke OK?" depending on what they have.

And they only have one because the two big soft drink companies force anyone who signs up with them to not sign up with the other guys. I'm sure they think this is clever, and it does have the result that if you have no choice, you will choose them.

The point of my saying "diet cola" is to head off that particular additional inquiry, because if I said instead, "I'd like a diet Pepsi" half the time I'll get the response "We only have diet Coke, it that OK?"

I realize I will have this problem for the rest of my life, small though it is. Because a couple times I've even said, "I'll have a diet Coke or diet Pepsi, whichever you have" and still get "Is diet Coke OK?" Crikey.

In the name of full disclosure, I must say that I did once encounter the reason all seasoned waiters and waitresses ask this redundant (to me) question: My mother. Once we were ordering, and she ordered a Coke. The waitress said they only had Pepsi and (say it with me) was that OK? My mom wrinkled up her nose as though the waitress had suggested floating a turd in her refreshment, as a garnish say, and said, "No thanks. I'll just have tea," quite put out. It was a moment of epiphany for me, and when the waitress left, I pounced on my mom, "YOU'RE the one who has caused the endless recitation of redundant questions! YOU!"

At which point my mother played the "I brought you into this world so shut the hell up" card.

But still, I'd love to discover the correct, precise phrasing that would indicate the intention of my order, so we don't always have to do the "which corporate giant are you the slave of" dance.

Anyone got a suggestion?

38 comments:

Anonymous said...
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The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Wow, that's comments spam, isn't it? I wonder when I'll get that on my blog?

Anyway your mom is right; Diet Pepsi tastes like used engine oil, and one is better off getting an iced tea instead. What I really hate is going to Cracker Barrel and ordering tea and being asked, "Sweet or unsweet?" Like anybody west of Louisiana says "unsweet"; they've clearly just forced these nice Texas waitresses to adopt a faux-suthuhn dialect to make their restaurant even more artificially down-homey.

Oh, and I hated those two years in upstate New York where every time I ordered tea they would bring me some vile hot beverage in a small cup.

Anonymous said...

"Gimme sips."

"White or brown?"

"Brown."

There is your formulation, if you can find a waiter post-hip enough to get the locutions.

Neil said...

"Hey, honey, what you got good to drink in here?"

This Coke and Pepsi annoyance is most apparent in fast food joints (because I think half of them are owned by Pepsi-Cola). I always ask for a diet Coke -- out of pure habit. For me saying Coke is like saying Xerox or Kleenex. And you know the Taco Bell employee were taught to always correct you, just as they are forced to ask you if you want fries, or if you want to super-size things (which I think they recently stopped doing because of lawsuits).

Frankly, this whole Coke and Pepsi thing seems like a holdover from some 1930's gangster movie. I'm suprised they don't smash each others' dispensers.

By the way, in my opinion, the best cola is RC Cola.

Sleemoth said...

"Diet Coke. No diet coke? Water with lemon. No lemons? Improvise."

Who said it and in what movie? (nouns are different)

Simon Kenton said...

It's a bit of a stretch to connect the intense narcissism of Clinton with the have-it-your-way tantrums of fast-food consumers, so I won't. (You will, but you will want to stay in denial about it.) Compared to my youth, and dear savage old Mrs Kenton, there are an extraordinary number of people these days who no longer eat what is set before them. And especially don't eat it with gratitude. And especially especially feel liberated to cause scenes about the tiniest inconveniences and inadvertances about their 'rights' to particular foodstuffs. Every man his own Deuteronomy. Whatever my preferences are constitute dietary law for everyone around me. Yahmdallah, you've witnesesed these people, and you come across as a nice guy. I bet you witnessed their bawlings and ventings with embarrassement, embarrassment for them. "How could he DO that? How could she hold her head up after losing it like that? How ashamed she must be for herself!" Well, he can, so can she, they aren't ashamed, they're actually smugly pleased at how they set the peasant straight. A very little bit of that conditioning would make any waiter or waitress want to try to get it right. Because petty as the question and the decision are, they can lead to horrible moments in a job that can't be very pleasant even at best.

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Seven Years of College Down the Drain said...

"By the way, in my opinion, the best cola is RC Cola."

Oh, yes. Especially accompanied by, as the song goes, a moon pie.

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