I fondly remember two anniversary dinners with my wife where a fancy establishment had the privilege of being littered with my gauche charm. Both of them used that scraper thingy.
The first such experience occurred in 1999 at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Florida where we spent $120 on a one-course meal for her, consisting of a dressed up saltine cracker and sparkling water, and a three-course meal for me of food resembling candies from a Whitman’s Sampler box.
The other memorable anniversary meal transpired in 2019 at Halls Chop House in Greenville, South Carolina where we spent $212.12 on a pair of filets the chef forgot to season.
What makes these two fine dining establishments so memorable? What puts them into the category of “fancy”? It wasn’t the price. I’ve paid much more to eat with princesses at Disney World in their castle. Look, if you’re going to Disney World, eat in the damn castle and enjoy it. Having lobster for breakfast is a nice break from the 105 degree, 90 percent morning humidity, while a too-pudgy Jasmine tries to convince your daughters she is the real deal. It was the most expensive breakfast I’ve eaten, a modest $720.49.
Even though it cost more than my vasectomy, I knew the Disney castle restaurant wasn’t fancy. Yes, it had white tablecloths. Yes, it had candelabras. And the quality of the food was as exemplary as Jasmine’s midriff. I think I even saw some guys wearing tuxedos and bow ties. Yes, it had all of those things, but it wasn’t fancy. Know how I know? Because they didn’t use the scraper thingy.
Only fancy restaurants use this little comb-like device to clean up your tiny messes after each course. It’s a very personal utensil that falls somewhere on the spectrum between a toothbrush and a nose trimmer.
Recently on a date with my wife, after paying too much for a meal we didn’t feel was fancy enough, I mentioned the scraper thingy. Understand, my wife has suffered from short-term memory loss for most of our marriage, so she didn’t immediately make the connection. I tried jogging her memory with phrases like, “You know, the scraper thingy.” When she shook her head no, I tried other phrases like, “Come on! You know, the scraper thingy at fancy restaurants.” Still nothing. So I resorted to describing what it looked like, thinking a visual should suffice, even for someone with short-term memory loss.
I explained it looked much like my uncle Don’s mustache before his hair turned gray. That didn’t help, so I said, “It’s like the bad guy’s mustache from the Cars movie. You know, the green car.” That didn’t do the trick either. Surely someone knows what the scraper thingy is called, I thought. So I turned my attention to the internet. Siri apparently didn’t know of my uncle Don, but she knew about the bad guy from Cars.
“Siri — find a picture of the scraper thingy like the green NASCAR guy from Cars with the mustache.”
She responded, “I hope this butters your popcorn,” and showed me the Cars movie poster. I showed the picture to my wife. Still no luck.
Eventually I resorted to typing in, “what is that scraper thing at fancy restaurants,” and you know what? Results. Just look at that first Google description, “The Unsung Hero of Fine Dining.” I didn’t write that article. I didn’t even read it. I don’t have to, the title says it all.
The Table Crumber. That, my friends, is the difference between a fancy restaurant and the rest of the competition. And before you dismiss this article as mere prattle from an incorrigible maniac, allow me to make a final argument.
The Table Crumber is always used by a real person. In a world now run by robots (e.g. your local Wal-Mart has abandoned all cashiers for check-yourself-out machines), the Table Crumber remains a piece of technology 100% powered by humans. Just like Argus Filch sweeps the floors in Hogwarts with a real broom, and Burt Reynolds’s mustache left his Pontiac Trans-Am and clung to the front of Chick Hicks’s carburetor, this thing is manual, baby. There’s no way around it. As soon as someone shoves a micro-motor and battery in it and it crawls around on your table, it will become something else entirely since it won’t take long for every McDonald's to deploy table crumber roombas on all their greasy surfaces. Long after that, fancy restaurants will still employ a human-powered Table Crumber.
“Why does that matter?” you ask. Because in a world where people flee from serving one another, the Table Crumber allows you to be served with an unforgettable dignity. It’s a dignity that lasts until the last crumb is swept away and you ask your wife if you have to tip extra because they used the scraper thingy.