This was originally written years ago, when I was still finding my personal narrative voice, and still enjoyed the beefy goodness of a slaughtered bovine creature with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. I've cleaned it up and meddled with it a tiny bit, because I can't resist meddling with things.
Many moons ago, my wife and I found ourselves at a Black Angus restaurant.
I’d like to welcome back those of you who just picked yourselves up off the floor. I don’t know what we were thinking, either.
Anyway, the waitress came over to our table after our food had been delivered, and asked, “Is everything excellent?” I could hear the italics.
I know that this poor girl was just doing her job, just as she’d been when she tried to upsell us on “a half-carafe or perhaps a full carafe of Fetzer merlot” but something inside me snapped. Before I could stop myself, I heard the following come out of my mouth: “Excellent? Excellent? No. It’s fine, and in fact I’ll even tell you that it’s nice, but excellent? If I said 'yes', I’d really be devaluing the whole word — and concept — of ‘excellent.’”
Anne gasped. A busboy three tables over dropped a stack of plates. The muzak was interrupted by the scratching of a needle across vinyl.
Remember in Cable Guy, when they’re at Medieval Times, and Janeane Garafolo looks at Matthew Broderick and just says, “... dude?” and we all know that he’s the asshole? Yeah, I was the asshole.
We all looked at each other, shocked, wondering what would happen next.
"He's not usually like this," Anne said.
"Hey! Don't apologize for me!" I said. Then, "I'm not usually like this."
"Uh-huh," she said, and disappeared into the kitchen.
"We're not getting dessert," Anne said. "In fact, we're not getting any more food that anyone in this restaurant other than us will get close to."
"That's probably a good idea."
We finished our meal, and I apologized again for what would become known as "the excellence incident." When I paid our bill, I over-tipped the girl as penance for my transgression, which I decided was intended as a lighthearted little joke that went awry between my brain and my vocal cords. But I did not — and I will not — waiver on the question of excellence. A man must stand for certain things, and I have chosen this. I have chosen to stand fast on the question of excellence.
The drive home was quieter than usual, until Anne turned to me unexpectedly and said, “Excellent? We’re at Black Angus. Let’s try for adequate and go from there.”
“Well thanks for speaking up for me when we were in there,” I said. “It was excellent that you had my back.”