The waiter approached our table, welcomed us to the restaurant, handed us our menus and asked if we would like a beverage before ordering. He seemed nice, ready, and eager to serve, aware that good service translates into a good tip.
I said, “Just water, please,” and he walked away.
We spent a few minutes perusing the menu, during which the waiter returned to fill our glasses and share the restaurant’s specials. The glazed duck sounded interesting, but so did the shrimp with saffron and fennel.
We took a moment for thoughtful culinary review and reflection, decided to pass on the specials, and ordered what we knew and liked: Caesar Salad and fried calamari for appetizers, salmon with a horseradish crust for her, eggplant rollatini for me.
The waiter smiled, retrieved our menus, and said, “Perfect.”
I thought, really? Perfect? Our order was perfect?
I hung on to that odd bit of praise, enjoying my Caesar salad, which was quite good despite the fact that there were no anchovies, which I love. We finished our entrees and split a slice of chocolate mousse cake for dessert. The waiter returned to our table and asked, “May I get you anything else?” I said, “No. Just the check.” Once again, he said, “Perfect.”
Apparently, we ordered the perfect meal, and each decision over three courses, including the decision to stop eating was perfect. Who knew I was such a gastronomic authority?
The following day, I brought my car in for an oil change. The attendant suggested four different types of oil: synthetic, synthetic blend, high mileage, and conventional. I said, “Let’s go with the synthetic.” He said, “Perfect,” and got right on it. I wonder what he would have said had I chosen conventional, but I guess I’m pretty good at oil too.
Lately, it seems I’m pretty good at everything, especially when it involves the exchange of money. In fact, the more money it appears I might spend, the more perfect I become. My wife’s birthday is not so far away and for quite some time she has been eyeing a pair of gold earrings with those shiny little rocks that are often found in wedding rings. Being a good husband, I went to the jewelry store to examine the earrings.
The jeweler carefully took the earrings out of their glass case and placed them on a black velvet cloth for my examination. They were very nice and very expensive. I showed her a picture of my wife and asked, “How do you think they would look on her?”
She said, “Totally perfect. Totally!”
I was a bit thrown. Were all my other perfect choices only partially perfect? Was eggplant rollatini unworthy of an exclamation, or was I simply garnering additional praise for additional money? I didn’t buy the earrings. Not yet. (Sorry Honey.)
When I think about things that are perfect: food, engine oil and earrings rarely come to mind. A beautiful sunset, a brilliant double rainbow, and the hummingbirds that visit my garden in the morning seem far more perfect to me. Had I selected one of them, certainly I’d be worthy of perfect praise. But let’s face it, true perfection is often serendipitous, and nothing I could ever do beats Mother Nature.
My 32-year-old son is very conscious about his looks, especially his hair. Each time he goes to the barber, he returns with a different cut. His latest haircut is the shortest it’s ever been, nearly down to his scalp. Normally, he could care less about my opinion, but this time he decided to ask. “What do you think?” he said. I said, “I think it’s really short.” He said, “But do you like it?” I said, “It’s perfect.” He responded by gently slapping me on the side of the head, fully aware that my statement might not be true, and said, “You hate it.” He was right.
Was it possible I was being praised ingenuously? Back at the same restaurant I listened to a couple order their dinner. Just like me, they asked for a Caesar salad. Good choice. Next, they ordered the swordfish. Don’t do it, I thought to myself. I’ve had the swordfish and it’s always overcooked and dry. I wanted to tell them, but the waiter’s response was more important. He does not disappoint. “Perfect,” he said, crushing my personal perfection bubble.
Back at my house, a storm is brewing in the sky. Thunder can be heard, and flashes of lightning illuminate the horizon. The downpour begins but lasts only a few minutes. As the clouds break up, mile long streaks of sunlight reach the treetops and the trees begin to glow as if each one is wearing a crown of emeralds. It’s good to be perfect. Nothing beats Mother Nature.