Shaken, Not Stirred: No problem.

June 19, 2016
Jim Bond

Jim Bond

Shaken, Not Stirred, a blog by Jim Bond.

Just arriving at a nice restaurant with my grown children, we’re seated, the server arrives with water as we’re all chattering away, the mundane conversation continues as all of us utter a thank you to the server who responds:

“No problem.”

The table goes quiet as all eyes go to me to gauge my reaction.

They know.

“No problem” is a response that irks me. ‘No problem’? I certainly hope it’s not a problem. It’s part of the job you have chosen (perhaps temporarily [while you’re waiting to be discovered by a Hollywood talent agent or you’re finishing up your first romance novel]). It’s paying your rent and covering car payments or making bus fare. The restaurateur who hired you is paying you virtually nothing for your service, so we patrons are making up the difference.

So yes, I’m assuming it’s ‘no problem’.

Let me continue by saying that I realize my angst at this phrase will strike you as arrogant. It’s okay; I’m called that a lot.  (Well, I’m called a great many things but we’ll address that some other time).

But also let me assure you that most servers really like me. I engage with them, I respect them as people, and I tip very well. I go out of my way to let them know I don’t blame them if an order is incorrect. Generally, unless the food is inedible, I don’t complain.

So why does ‘no problem’ bother me so much?

I haven’t a clue. If a Latino server said: “De nada”, I wouldn’t have an issue. If I were savoring escargot in a French restaurant (unlikely) I wouldn’t take offense at the phrase: “Je ne pas probleme”.

Maybe it has to do with Midwestern twang: “No praaahblm”…at which I expect the end of the statement to be ‘Dude’.

People of other countries are often surprised at Americans’ politeness at issuing a ‘Thank you’ to a retail salesperson or restaurant server. That surprises me. My children were always taught to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when someone did something for them.

Perhaps the ‘No problem’ problem can be laid at the feet of the late George Carlin. In a monologue once he referred to the “…unnecessary over use of ‘Thank you’. These days”, he continues, “…I think there are far too many ‘thank yous’ being thrown around…”.

I recall another Carlin bit where the server delivers something.

“Thank you”, says the customer.

“No, thank YOU!” says the server.

“No, no, thank YOU!”

Perhaps in an effort to eliminate all the ‘unnecessary’ “Thank you” responses, those who serve the retail public devised the galling “No praaahblm”.

How ‘bout: “You’re welcome”? “It’s my pleasure”?

So, as you take dear ol’ dad out for a Father’s Day dinner or dessert, maybe just skip the obligatory “Thank you” to the server. But tip them well. They have to deal with curmudgeons all the time.

Oh, by the way, thank you for reading this…