Article Date: 10/1/2013

lessons learned
lessons learned

The Waiter Screwed Up

To avoid a faux pas, don’t horse around with a little knowledge.



I enjoy a glass of wine. But my knowledge is pretty much limited to some is red and some is white and it’s not couth to order Strawberry Ripple in a fancy French restaurant. That, together with an overestimation of my French language skills (I’d had two years of French in high school), got me in trouble on a trip to Paris.

We went to a fairly fancy restaurant one night, and I was presented with a quandary when I was given the wine list. Do I just order the vin ordinaire (“house wine” for those of you less cultured than I). Or do I go into my sophisticated act and order a 1978 something or other. I finally figured 1978 was probably a terrible year, and if I ordered it, the waiter would know I was a slob trying to pose as a connoisseur. This appeared to me to be the worst of the two alternatives, so I ordered a glass of the vin ordinaire.

It wasn’t just a glass

Somehow the waiter didn’t understand my flawless French, and what I got was not a glass but instead a large pitcher of vin ordinaire. This presented a few problems. First, it was very good. Secondly, I was raised during the Depression of the ‘30s, with the constant admonition from my mother, “Finish your dinner! The poor starving children in India would love to have what you’ve left on your plate and in your glass.” Although I must admit that my teetotaling mother undoubtedly had milk, rather than wine, in mind.


The third problem is best illustrated by the story of the drunk who was hailed before a judge, who asked him, “How did you get in this deplorable condition?”

“It wasn’t my fault, Judge. It was the bad company I was in that caused it. There was four of us that had a fifth of whiskey ... and the other three don’t drink.”

I had the same problem because the other three folks at our table didn’t drink wine. Nevertheless, I discovered at the end of the meal that the entire content of the pitcher had somehow disappeared. I paid dearly for my transgression with the next-day hangover.

Hamburger du cheval

The next noon we ate at a small restaurant. The only thing I recognized on the menu was hamburger du cheval. “Hamburger” wasn’t too tough to translate, and my high school French recalled that cheval was the word for “cheese.” So I suavely ordered this cheeseburger to keep from having to ask the waiter to translate the other items on the menu, thus looking like a tourist rather than a debonair cosmopolitan sophisticate.

But when the waiter brought it, rather than cheese atop the burger, there was instead a fried egg. When I had almost finished eating it, my high school French mentally kicked in and said, “Hey, dummy. The French word for ‘cheese’ isn’t cheval, it’s fromage. Cheval is the word for ‘horse.’ “

The lesson?

French friends later told me that hamburger du cheval is an honest to goodness beef hamburger with an egg riding on top like a jockey. However I still can’t shake the conviction that I ate a horseburger.

Moral of the story? A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. OM


Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: October 2013, page(s): 65