I didn’t set out to confuse waitresses in Chinese restaurants. I really didn’t.
And, of course, it’s not just servers in Chinese restaurants who are confused when I order two drinks. It’s wait staff at almost every restaurant where I eat.
I don’t remember when I started asking for a water and a Diet Pepsi or unsweet tea. A long time ago.
You see, when I get seated at a restaurant and the waiter or waitress takes my drink order, I ask for — most commonly — a Diet Pepsi (Diet Coke if absolutely necessary) and ice water.
At some point, many years ago, I figured, “Hey, it wouldn’t hurt to balance out all that Diet Pepsi with some water. Water’s good for you, after all. They — science types I guess — say we don’t drink enough water. So I’ll order a glass of water along with my Diet Pepsi or unsweet tea.”
I also decided a glass of water was a good defense against negligent waitressing. If they never come back to the table and ask if I want a refill of Diet Pepsi, no big deal. I’ve got a glass of water handy. I’ve even been known to order a glass of water alongside a beer.
I usually have the same combo at home, in case you’re wondering if I inflict this odd preference only on professional servers. But at home I often get my drinks myself so it doesn’t matter.
Now this water-and-pop combo doesn’t faze some servers. But others are puzzled by it or even disbelieving.
In some restaurants, the server cocks an eyebrow and asks, “You want a Diet and a water?”
At others, they nod, walk away and return with just the water or just the Diet Pepsi. Not both.
At a few places, if I’m dining with someone, they assume I’ve just ordered for the other person and speed away, returning with a water and a Diet Pepsi that they arbitrarily assign to one or the other of us.
This just results in my dining companion being disgruntled.
Sorry for all the confusion, but I’m not going to change my preferences just because a server can’t figure them out.
Not to say that I’m not willing to find ways to emphasize that, yes, even though I’m just one person, I’m ordering two drinks.
“Can I get a Diet (pause) and a water please?” I ask.
I’ve even experimented with reversing the order, wondering if I say water before Diet, maybe that will signal they shouldn’t assume I’m just afflicted with some multiple-drink-ordering version of Tourettes.
“Could I get a water (pause) and a Diet please?”
I have yet to find a perfect way to pose this apparently unorthodox request.
Until I do, I’ll continue to get responses like one from a couple of days ago.
I told the waitress I wanted a Diet Pepsi and a water and she nodded, turned to walk away … then turned back.
“You want a Diet and a water?” she asked.
Yes, please. And thank you. And, apparently, sorry.