"Here you go, hon."
Now why does that flip a switch for me?
The "hon" word, I mean. Or any of its several variants, including "sugar," "dear" or "sweetie." I'm sure there are others.
I hear them, when I hear them, almost exclusively as sentence suffixes by female wait staff at eating establishments. I never expect to go to the dentist and have the hygienist request me to "Open wide, hon," or check out a hammer and nails at Lanier Hardware with the cashier smiling "Be careful with these, sweetie."
And yet, my chest puffs out and my day, for the moment, gets a little brighter. It really doesn't make sense.
I'm certain that it's all gender driven, too. Maybe it's because I'm under the illusion that a female is actually paying attention to me. I fall for it all the time. Conversely, my wife and I don't usually exchange words of endearment. We never have. It's just not in our connubial vocabulary and we don't love each other any the less for it. And yet a total stranger bringing down $4 an hour and tips can make the sun rise out of my pancakes and syrup when she brings my plate says "Here you go, hon."
I did consider the tip angle in this — that a waitress might consciously flatter her clientele to bring in a little more loot, but I don't think so. I think it's something that just comes naturally to the practitioner, as if they are born into it. Like breathing. Born to wait.
I did have a male call me "hon" once, but that was something entirely different. It was Charlie England, the venerable coach from Lexington. I had just moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, and soon after he got to know me, he started calling me "hon." While it sounded strange, I never took offense and figured it to be a regional, or southern, or even a cultural thing. A man calling another man "hon" in Pennsylvania, by contrast, would get him instantly excommunicated from the planet. I soon learned that Charlie called all of his friends "hon" and I felt honored to be included in his circle.
I also have a few male friends who do take offense by those terms of endearment from waitresses. I think they consider it to be reverse sexism that waitresses can get away with. I mean, if I called a female co-worker "sweetie" or "sugar," I'd probably be slapped with a restraining order so fast my head would spin, and I'd be looking for a part-time job at a bank in Mozambique.
At any rate, colloquial language is a curious thing, I guess. I bet most folks don't even know they're using those words in conversation because, I suspect, they've grown up with them all their lives. So I'm going to take it as it comes and feel appropriately flattered when it happens.
Jeez. Now I'm hungry for some pancakes.