Me: Stop growling at the waiter.
Captain: Tell him to get his hands out of my lap.
Me: He was just arranging your napkin for you.
Captain: If he arranges anything else in my lap, he’ll be serving salads at the rehab center.
Me: And you’ll be eating them in cell block 9. Here comes the first course. Remember to use your cocktail fork.
Captain: If that dude puts his hands in my lap again, he’s gonna find out what my cocktail fork is for.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, everybody at the party is going know you’re from a place where the dogs wear tags instead of tiaras. Nobody will ever confuse me with Paris Hilton. I pick clothes by the “will it show food” method, and my Labrador could eat a herd of her Chihuahuas and still have room for a Poodle snack later on. But I like to think that when it comes to manners I know enough not to blow my nose on the dinner napkin unless it’s paper and comes in an economy pack. Or at least a low thread count.
Sometimes, though, no matter how you try to disguise the poppy seeds wedged in your Saturday night smile, you may as well pack it in and head off to make a living as a camel farmer in Dubai because everybody can tell you come from a place where smoke detectors take the place of kitchen timers and you use 911 to call the family to dinner.
I’ve read up on the subject and even though camels have a reputation for expressing their opinions in unsanitary and vehemently saliva-filled ways, there are times I would opt for my hand at camel-milking and brave the spit rather than have another head waiter discover that I took my au gratin for granted.
Recently, I had occasion to visit the Ritz. And when I say Ritz, I don’t mean the cracker.
There are some places where a small town Southern girl is as comfortable as a garden tomato on white bread; center stage at the Miss Fried Okra Festival, the discount makeup stand at the corner flea market, the cushioned rocker in the church nursery holding a lap full of a baby made of wet and drippy.
Note that the Ritz-Carlton hotel during cocktail hour is not on this list.
I’m the girl who honeyed her crumpet upside down when invited to tea. The girl who shot a grape across the floor like fruit flavored buckshot at an outdoor café. The girl who thinks that any dessert plate within her orbit is an open invitation for food tasting.
I discovered that life at the Ritz isn’t the same as it is at Motel 6. At the Ritz, they’ll leave the light on for you, but they tally the wattage and charge it to your bill. I’ve paid less that than that for a permanent bridge to anchor my molars against Tootsie Roll devastation. The good folks at the Ritz will run your bathwater too, but for that price, the Captain says they should christen the QE II in it and scrub the bathtub ring with a live mink.
In my world, college and antibiotics comes in courses. At the Ritz, dinner does. All in all, we came through the maze of salad forks and bread plates unscathed. A line of waiters strode out with each course and circled our table like General Santa Ana closing in on the die-hard Texans at the Alamo. Those waiters put up a good fight, what with extra spoons and not a Bowie knife in the lot, but we showed those guys we knew what a finger bowl was good for.
Captain: We didn’t have finger bowls. You kept rinsing your hands in my Scotch and soda. Didn’t you see it on the video they made during dinner?
Me: Do you know the area code for Dubai? I hear there are some great opportunities in camel farming there.
Captain: There may not be any job openings. That’s where that waiter said he was headed the last time he tried to put that napkin in my lap.