Humorist David Sedaris has noticed some irritating habits lately:
I travel across America twice a year, making lots of stops along the way, and each time the country feels a little different.
On this latest trip I noticed an increased use of the word "perfect," not as an adjective – a perfect spinach soufflé, a perfect figure eight – but as a response to a statement.
"We're on the 8:30 flight."
"I'll have the eggs over easy."
I don't mind perfect, it's just something I noticed.
I also noticed a lot more men addressing me as "Boss."
"I'd like to check out of my room."
"All right, Boss."
Why does that bother me so? I wondered.
In a restaurant one morning, my waiter came around with the coffee pot. "Top you off, Boss?
"I don't want to be a pill," I said, "but please don't call me that."
"What would you like me to call you instead?" he asked.
"'Sir' would work," I told him. "I mean, it's what I'd call you." (I thought for a moment that "Mister" was an option, though that's what a child would say: "Hey, Mister, you dropped something!" It's at least earnest, though.)
There always seems to be a smirk behind "Boss." It's like addressing a woman as "Princess."
"So, you'll have a latte, and anything else, Princess?"
My father used to call other men "Sonny." Not if they were kids or wore suits and ties, but only if they were his age, and pumped his gas, or carried his golf clubs. It made my sisters and me cringe. It was like he was rubbing their noses in something. "Chief" had a similar ring to it, as did "Sport."
In England you hear "Mate." "Who do you say Mate to?" I asked my British friend, Dave. "People I think will say it to me," he answered.
In that regard it's like "Man." "Hey, Man, you dropped your wallet!"
I always thought "Sir" came after "Man," and am hoping that "Boss" is just a passing phase, like "Dude" was. In the meantime, I'll continue to gently correct people, and in response they'll nod the way you do when you're only half-listening, and say, "Perfect."
For more info:
- "Happy-Go-Lucky" by David Sedaris (Little, Brown), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound
Story produced by Amy Wall.
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