There was a time when salt and pepper were standard items on tables in homes and restaurants everywhere. “Pass the salt”, “Pass the pepper” – those were things we said as kids around the family dinner table, along with “stop kicking me” and “why is this chicken green?” How things have changed.

These days, adding pepper at a restaurant has become a culinary spectacle. No more sad little pepper shaker on your table. No, your server Darlene sneaks up on you armed with a pepper grinder the size of a grenade launcher which the bouncer will use later to keep unruly patrons in line.

“Would you like some freshly ground pepper?”

I don’t know. I haven’t tasted anything. This stuff could already be sufficiently peppered; maybe over-peppered. But this might be my only chance. And everyone’s watching. I need to respond. I panic.

“Yes, please.”

There, I committed.

“Say when.”

Great, now I have another decision to make. And everyone’s still watching. And judging.

Two twists of the wrist and Darlene stops and waits expectantly. I say nothing. What is the proper protocol here? Nobody knows. This is too new of an experience to have established acceptable behaviors. I wing it.

“Just a little more please,” I say, resisting the urge to say “when”. That hasn’t been funny since the three hundredth time I said it.

Another two twists and she pauses again. Maybe she’s developing carpal tunnel syndrome and needs a rest. She waits expectantly. All eyes are on me. The pressure builds again.

“That’s fine.”

It’s not, but I can no long monopolize both the only pepper grinder in the restaurant as well as the pepper-grinding specialist; the Pepperier, who mercifully moves on.

We all wonder how Larry will do. What’s this? He’s directing the Pepperier to certain items on his plate? Is Larry a pepper snob? Why doesn’t he want pepper on his French fries? I put pepper on mine. Well, I didn’t, Darlene did, but still, what’s wrong with pepper on fries? Who does Larry think he is? He thinks he’s better than me, doesn’t he? That’s what he’s saying. He’s telling the world that he’s better than me. What a jerk! That’s it; I hate Larry.

See, that’s the danger in having a Pepperier. It pits diners against each other. Maybe it runs contrary to the Charter of Rights. First they take away your pepper, then they take your right to vote. It’s a slippery slope. It could lead to total anarchy.

For the good of all mankind, we need to rise up and have our voices heard.

Free the Pepper! Free the Pepper!

Things are changing too fast. I’m getting too old for this. I must go rest.