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what'll it be, dear?

I was having lunch in a family restaurant last week. You know the kind of place: vinyl booths, hot turkey sandwiches and fountain coke, pay the cashier on your way out. And busy waitresses -- usually of a certain age and body type -- wearing white shoes and smiles. I'm writing today in a kind of homage to these waitresses. It seems to me that they represent the purest example of what I can call eglitarianism.

I can't think of anyone other group (they're almost a caste, aren't they?) with only one form of address for the whole world. No matter who you are -- pop star or pauper, male or female, grandparent or babe in arms -- you are "dear" to them. That friendly caring word is on their lips no matter whom they are addressing. You, me, Osama, Queen Elizabeth, Batman, everyone. If the Prince of Darkness ordered a hot turkey sandwich from a family restaurant, the waitress would smile and say, "And what'll you have to drink, dear?" And when he ordered boiling hot baby's blood, or whatever, she'd purse her lips and say, "I'll check for you, dear, but I don't think we have any."

Heartwarming, isn't it? Who can object to being called "dear" by a motherly woman? Not me.

The only other stereotype with something approaching a uniform salute would be the outlaw biker gang --only the term they use for everyone is not, "dear." I can't imagine that a family restaurant staffed by outlaw bikers would do very well.


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