I didn’t read Dick Meyer’s Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium, but a friend told me about it, which is the same thing, right? As one example of our self loathing, Meyer shines the light on an experience many of us have had: We go to a restaurant, ignore the servers for the most part except to complain when, as we expect, their timing isn’t both invisible and impeccable, and then get irritated with their apathy or not-so-subtle disdain of us.
The problem (as Meyer supposedly writes) is not that we expect perfection from each other; it’s that we expect the worst.
I think we are seduced by the idea that the next new experience is something that will make us happy, but we jump from experience to experience without changing what that fundamental experience is. What if, and (I’ve heard) Meyer suggests this, you went to the same favorite restaurant all the time? And what if you always ordered your favorite meal? And what if, by golly, you got to know your servers?
Daniel Gilbert points out in Stumbling on Happiness, which I did read, and now because I’m telling you about it, you don’t have to, that you will be most satisfied if you always chose the meal you like the most. It’s true. It’s science.†
Every week, sometimes twice a week, I eat at the Blue Fig, an unassuming daytime restaurant with good enough coffee. The Reuben is out of this world— every time— and Shirene, Aaron, and Nick always smile and ask about my day. We’ve had conversations about the big things they want to do that really matter to them (of course) and what it’s like to quit smoking and which benches look best in their back patio. It’s only been a couple months, but soon I want to be able to walk in there and have them ask me, “The usual?” Just like in the movies.
It’s not that special a place if I consider on the same block of Valencia Street are there are another 4,006 of the world’s best restaurants. But then, something like this happens, and I think, I’m in love.
This week’s goal. Go to your favorite restaurant, order your favorite meal, and get to know your server. Then next week, do it again.
†Apparently, it’s common to choose less-preferred experiences for the sake of variety.