Don’t call me sweetheart if you don’t know my name

The young Irish waiter called all the women at Thursday’s church ladies luncheon “dear.” On my trip last week, the waitress at Denny’s called me “hon.” The young black man taking away my used plate at Sizzler asked, “Would you like to keep your knife, sweetheart?” I got sweethearted at another Denny’s farther north and at a Black Bear Diner just south of Bakersfield.

The waitress at the Black Bear called the young adult male in the booth behind me “young man,” which I suspect is insulting to any male over age 10. I know I have always hated being called “young lady.”

I also got called “sweetheart” at a gas station where I had trouble with a malfunctioning pump. The woman clearly thought I was an idiot.

I’m a 66-year-old woman. Why are strangers calling me sweetheart? I can’t help but think of the nursing home employees who call everyone honey, sweetie, darling, etc., or use their first names even though the residents are elderly adults deserving more respect even if their minds have turned to melted Jell-O.

But let’s get back to restaurants. I ate out approximately 20 times on my recent trip, so I got a pretty good survey of low-budget sit-down eateries, the kinds of places with sticky menus and tables wiped down with dirty wet rags. The servers, mostly in their 20s, mostly Mexican south of San Francisco, gave out the “sweeties” and “hons” freely. (They were also prone to rate my orders as in “awesome” or “perfect.”) I don’t expect them to know my name. I know I’m just the “club sandwich at table 12.” Even at my favorite local restaurant, they don’t know my name, just that I’m the solo diner who wants iced tea–no lemon, lots of ice.

I know the words trip out automatically. The servers don’t mean anything by it. But why not call me “ma’am?” I know some women bristle at that term because it makes them feel old, but I’m okay with my age. If I were dining in a Spanish-speaking country, I’d like to be called “Señora,” because that’s what I am. For me, the terms of endearment should be reserved for one’s lover, spouse or child, not for a stranger eating a waffle at Denny’s.

We in the U.S. are casual people, probably more so on the West Coast. Earlier generations were taught to address adults as “sir” and “ma’am.” When did it degenerate to “sweetie,” “hon,” and “dear?”

Then there’s the waitress at the truck stop in Corning, California, who probably should have retired a few years ago. I remember her from eating there with Fred back when he was alive and healthy. She walked as if she might fall over any second. She was already confused, and it didn’t help that it was a Friday in Lent, so I couldn’t eat meat. I was craving a tuna sandwich, but the menu was a meat-lovers dream, not so good for even seasonal vegetarians. She recommended the buffet. I served myself a hard piece of mystery fish, salad and a brownie, wishing I’d gone to my sixth Denny’s instead.

One of the great things about this truck stop restaurant is that they give you a whole pitcher of iced tea. I watched my waitress walk toward me with a glass and a pitcher. She gave me the glass but walked away with the pitcher. Then she got busy with other parties. I ate and waited. She wandered around, sort of serving the group of six men nearby. I waited some more. Eventually she brought my tea in a to-go cup that was already leaking.

“You should have thrown something at me,” she said.

I considered what I would have thrown. My book? My phone? My pen? She looked like she would bruise easily.

She walked away and came back. “Did you have the buffet?” Yes, yes, I did. She handed me my bill. She did not give me my senior discount.

But bless her heart, she didn’t call me “sweetheart,” “honey,” “dear,” or anything else, at least not where I could hear it.

So, darlings, what are your experiences with strangers calling you by terms of endearment? If you have waited tables, I’d love to read your comments on the subject.

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From Jesus to Weed: signs point the way

img_20161121_1608453881I’ve been driving back and forth from the Oregon Coast to San Jose, California for 20 years. My late husband and I left “Silicon Valley” in 1996 for a better life in a small town by the beach. It is a better life. But the family is still back in California, so several times a year I hit the road. Unless it’s snowing in the mountains, I take I-5.

When you drive the same route so many times, you notice the little changes. Also, your mind wanders, especially when you’re sick of the CDs you brought and the radio offers nothing but talk shows and evangelical preachers.

Today I’d like to share some of the signs I saw along the road during my September and November trips:

Politics: There used to be a lot of anti-Obama signs. They’re all gone, no point now that his term is about to end. As I traveled through San Joaquin Valley farm country for Thanksgiving, the signs said, “Make America Great Again” or simply “Trump.” Post-election, one sign had an addendum: “Thank you.”

Also in farm country: “Pray for water.” California has gotten some rain lately but not nearly enough.

“Guided goose hunt. Call now.”

Near Delevan: “The gift of God is Jesus Christ our Lord”

Mt. Shasta: More than a peak experience.”

For Rolling Hills Casino, located in Corning, The Olive City: “Eat! 3 restaurants.” “Tip Top Pit Stop”

Approaching the town of Weed: “Weed like to welcome you.” Not a typo.

Five miles south of Yreka, there’s a metal-sculpture cow, now with a calf. For Christmas, someone usually drapes a garland around the cow’s neck.

The State of Jefferson sign. At one time, folks in southern Oregon and northern California were planning to create their own state. Considering how things have been going lately, they’re considering it again.

In a pasture just south of the Oregon-California border, black-faced sheep gather around a big white cross and a hand-painted sign that says, “Forgive them.” I wonder who and for what?

The road goes up and up, signs marking the altitude in 500-foot increments to the peak of 4,310 at Siskyou Pass. Other signs tell drivers where to chain up or take off snow chains. Hope I never have to. I have chains, but I have no clue how to put them on.

Northbound just before the Oregon border: “Puzzled? God has answers.” And just past it, a giant liquor store sign.

Also approaching the border, a green and yellow billboard: Need Weed? Take Canyonville exit. Ah, we’re back in Oregon.

Honk the horn at the Welcome to Oregon sign and watch the milepost numbers start fresh with Number 1.

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