02 August 2011

Ear Splitting Sharpies

If you’re been to a Hooters in the last – oh – forever, you’re probably familiar with the practice of your Hooters Girl writing her name on a napkin as she’s introducing herself to your table.  Not only is this congruent with the informal, personal feel of Hooters, but it also is a sign to us as servers that the table has been taken care of; it’s a perfectly simple solution.

Yesterday, I was introducing myself as normal and uncapped my Sharpie to jot down my name.  It was business as usual.  No sooner had I put marker to napkin was I suddenly being told to stop.  Yes, a customer was asking me to stop writing my name down.  Actually, to be more accurate I was being yelled at.

Well that explains it.  CREDIT.
“OH MY GOD, DO NOT DO THAT,” he bellowed as he swiftly covered his ears.  This was not a normal reaction.  It stopped me cold.  There I was staring at a middle-aged man forcibly covered his ears.  Surprised doesn’t begin to cover it.

And that’s about the way we stood for a good thirty seconds, because he also had his eyes closed.  There he was doing the “hear no evil, see no evil” as I awkwardly stood there unsure what the eff to do about it.  I was beyond confused.

“Are you done doing that yet?”

I had been done for nearly a minute with half my name scrawled across the napkin as he cautiously opened his eyes.  As he realized I’d stopped long before, I did the only thing I could think of and asked what he’d care to drink as if I hadn’t gotten screamed at for writing my name.  While I took the order I casually grabbed the napkin and crumpled it in my hands hoping that hiding the evidence might lessen my embarrassment.  I was just going to pretend it never happened.

As I poured his beer, my manager came over to ask what happened to cause such uproar.  It was pretty obvious by her blank reaction that the whole thing really was as ridiculous as it sounded.  We both agreed I was probably one of the few people in the world who have been screamed at for writing on a napkin.  I call that talent.

Beer and food were dropped off and consumed, and while the rest of the meal went fine, I was marginally relieved to cash the gentleman out.  It was as I was doing so that he took the time to casually apologize and rattle of some excuse about the sound reminding him of sand.  Yes, sand. 

Naturally this led me to test the combination of Sharpie and napkin and my findings produced little to no noise that you could hear across a table – and most certainly no sound that had anything to do with sand.  Don’t worry; I was as confused as you probably are.
Hey, at least he apologized!


  1. Seriously? I just ate at Hooters for the first time ever last week, and I didn't see anything unusual about my Hooters Girl (her name was Chelsea, by the way) writing her name on a napkin. I thought it was kind of cute.

    I'm trying to think of some reasonable explanation for why this customer would react this way. I just can't think of one, and what he told you doesn't make that much sense to me, either.

  2. Physical illness on the customers part. Or a B vitamin deficiency that makes the ears work like that. The sharpie isn't the only thing that would bother him.

  3. That would haved surprised me! He probably has something along the lines of sensory processing disorder. Not all disorders/illnesses are visible externally. Sounds like you handled it tactfully though! :)


  4. I've discovered as I approach old geezerhood that there are noises in certain frequencies--usually the higher ones--that make it feel like someone is driving nails in my ears. Though I think I culd probably tolerate someone jotting their name down with a Sharpie. Yeah, the guy may have some sort of issue, physical or mental. Though at least he apologized.

  5. While I realize it COULD have been some sort of sensory processing disorder or sensitivity, me thinks that if one had such an issue they'd avoid Hooters which is full of loud music and the high-pitched screams of bubbly women. If you were bothered by noise, Sharpies would be the least of your issues.

    Besides, I tend to be pretty good at reading people. And my verdict was just that he was weird. But I do obviously accept the fact that I could be wrong (hey, it's happened before).

  6. Nope, I can't remember the name of the disorder, but its a more acute version of why most people don't like nails on a chalkboard, or a fork on a plate, or for some, the noise or feel of tinfoil. I dislike the sound of paper rubbing together, it makes my teeth hurt, and raises goosebumps all over my skin, and will drive me from a room while others look on confused.

    I realize its weird, but maybe don't be so quick to say its a physical disorder because you haven't heard of it. I'm sure the guy realizes its weird and would choose to not have that reaction if he could.

    Of course, not to say that he was not ALSO "just weird"...but ya, its actually not that uncommon, most of us just hide it better.

  7. Argh, I can't find the name of the "disorder" but It has to do with the very specific combination of frequencies in the noise.


    (and while paper being rubbed together bothers me, nails on a chalkboard and a fork on a plate don't, I assume its got something to do with my hearing.

  8. I think there are just certain sounds that bother people in general. For example, my sister HATES it if she hears a knife scrapping across a plate. I don't think it necessarily hurts her ears, I just know she doesn't like the sound of it.

  9. I never said it wasn't a physical disorder because I haven't heard of it; that would be awfully close-minded. I said given the situation, the general attitude of the gentleman and his explanation involving the sound of sand and growing up in Eastern Montana, I didn't believe a disorder was the cause of the issue. Had I thought that something like that was the case I wouldn't have written this post in the first place. Believe it or not I do have a bit of sensitivity.

  10. People with Autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders have very sensitive senses sometimes. My younger brother hates the sound of knives on plates. I don't really like the sharpie on a napkin sound either. It reminds me of how my fingertips feel after having wool or polyester on them. Now I'm sounding synesthetic though...

  11. i don't mind sharpies on napkins, but i might've had a similiar reaction if it was sharpies on cardboard (not really, but i do hate the sound/feel of writing on cardboard with sharpies)

    i just recently discovered your blog, i totally love it. i ate at a hooter's restaurant for the first time a few months ago with a friend and her brother and it was cool! the wings were delicious and everyone was super friendly. i would definitely go back!

  12. If I didnt work at Hooters in New York City, I would think you and I had the same guest (although mine may have been less dramatic about it).Today I wrote my name on the napkin and the guest at my table said, "OH! that noise!" I thought maybe someone in the kitchen was yelling food up or a bus tub was dropped, but it was morning and the place was quiet for Hooters.

    I was mystified to find out he meant my name writing, which I have never found to make any noise at all. Like you, I tested it later. I thought about it at every table I greeted for the rest of the day. Silence.

    My only answer is that the Sharpie on Napkin might be something akin to a dog whistle- only select ears can hear it?



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