Waitress, I realize you're very busy and, no doubt, you have a lot on your mind. God knows, everyone does these days. But what this country needs right now is a return to normalcy. We need to work, laugh, and eat the way we did before Sept. 11. That's why it's absolutely vital that I get my medium-rare shell steak with roasted vegetables in the next 10 minutes. Because if I don't, well, then the terrorists have already won.

These are hard times for all of us. Some days, I can barely bring myself to send back my tuna sandwich for having too much mayo or too little tarragon. Yet to hang my head in defeat and eat a sandwich that fails to meet my personal specifications is exactly what they want us to do. They want us to give up and admit defeat. I don't know how you were raised, but when life deals me a blow, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and demand that the kitchen reheat my lobster bisque. That's the way I am, and I'm not going to let some fundamentalist wacko halfway around the world change that.

You have to understand that keeping Americans from getting a finely marbled cut of tenderloin, de-boned and seared to perfection, in a timely manner is phase three of the terrorists' plan. The first was the destruction of our most powerful political and financial symbols. The second was to shake our confidence in our government's ability to protect us. The third is to prevent us from enjoying the high standards of service that customers here at Joe's Steak Pit have come to expect.

Don't you realize that by giving me poor service, you're giving poor service to America itself? Until you can learn to get me a decently chilled Pinot Grigio, maybe you should take that American-flag pin off your apron. Your entire kitchen staff is making a mockery of everything those stars and stripes stand for. You should feel ashamed wearing such a pin. You should also comp us free desserts to make up for the long wait.

At this crucial juncture in our nation's history, we have to come together as one. Only then do we stand a chance of getting through this. Also, we need a busboy over here ASAP to refill our water. If not, the fine line between quality service and chaos will not only be crossed, but stomped on. Without constant beverage refills, we might as well tear up the constitution and declare this great land of ours a theocratic dictatorship. Surely, the busboy understands the connection between prompt water refills and liberty, doesn't he? Perhaps you can remind him.

Do you want the blood of our forefathers to have been spilled for nothing? Well, if you can't bring us the entrees we need to rebuild our strength as a nation in the next five minutes, you might as well move to Afghanistan and join in one of their American-flag-burning rallies. Because that's what you're really doing.

I understand you got our appetizers to us relatively quickly, but that's only half the battle. Right now, you need to go to the waitress station and ask yourself some difficult questions. Namely, are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

Also, we need some fresh rolls when you get a chance.