Everyone is at least little neurotic. For some it is outwardly apparent, while others have an easier task in hiding it. I am no different. I can be downright weird sometimes. For the most part, I am able to keep my madness at bay while in public leaving only the few hours I spend at home to let it all out. However, there is one little compulsion, I like to think of it as an endearing eccentricity, that effects a large portion of my public life, dining out.
I have neither anorexia nor bulimia. Although it has to do with eating, the problem I am about to discuss is not an eating disorder. It is more of an ordering disorder. When dining out, I simply can’t stand it when someone orders the same menu item as me. Also, I will almost never order a dish after someone else has ordered it. I can not explain how awkwardly annoyed it makes me when someone copies my order. I can’t exactly explain why either. The only simile that comes to mind is this: Imagine that you have had the most wonderfully original idea in the history of the world, and then someone right next to you says, “Good idea! I am going to do that too.” If occurrences like this don’t bother you in the slightest I doubt you will understand at all and that’s alright. Like I said, it is somewhat neurotic and I know how irrational it is. However, these are the feelings I have and I have learned to live with them.
In my perfect world, each item on a restaurant menu would magically vanish after being ordered a single time, only reappearing for the next party of patrons. As I have never had the pleasure of encountering an establishment with this type of service, I have created a set of rules to aid me in public dining. These rules help relieve the burden of my condition and allow me to enjoy myself in situations that I might otherwise dread. Again, I do understand how irrational this is.
Rule #1 – Always Order Last
Quite simple really. If I order last, no one can repeat my decision. Also, if there is something that I know I want to oder, I will stake my claim early in hopes that others will back away from it. This can be dangerous because it may just call attention to the dish inadvertently inflating its demand.
Rule #2 – Know the menu
Knowing the menu well allows me the ability to have several options ready when called upon to order. If my first or second pick is taken I don’t have to panic with frustration. I can just move on to my next option.
Rule #3 – The Cheaper the Establishment the Less It Matters
I have no desire to quabble, mentally or verbally, about food items at McDonald’s. Conversely, I am going to be very annoyed if someone orders the exact same dish as me at Firenze, my favorite Italian restaurant on the East Side. Especially if it is the cognac marinated rib-eye. That dish is a little piece of heaven that I will not be denied! But if someone orders it before me, I simply can not follow suit.
Rule #4 – Recommendations are an Exception
If I ask for a recommendation, I do so knowing that I may be ordering the same item as the person giving the recommendation. Before taking the advice I usually will ask if they planned on ordering the recommended item themselves. If that is the case, I will ask for another recommendation. However, if they insist that this dish is the best, it would be rude to not take their advice. This rule only applies when eating at an establishment for the first time. On subsequent visits I can generally navigate the menu myself.
Rule #5 – Visit Small Restaurants at Your Own Risk
Small restaurants sometimes have small menus increasing the likelihood of repeat orders. That’s the way it is. I have learned to just deal with it.
There are many more rules and variations than just these. However, they tend to become complicated and apply only to specific situations so I will limit this list to five.
For the third time I am going to say that I understand this is more than a little weird. Not that long ago, a friend even told me that he actually found this disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders but I haven’t been able to verify this yet. I ask that you do your best not to judge me in the same way that I try not judge those who can’t think creatively even in something as simple as ordering from a menu. Think of it this way; I am simply protecting the dinner conversation. If everybody ordered the same thing their would be a lot less to talk about.