I think the answer to Fabienne's query, which I don't think any of us, at least myself, ruled out is the obvious one: clearly express what you want to the waiter.
I'm going to depart from the current debate over what perceived trangressions should be considered worthy of getting upset over and articulate my understanding of the customer-waiter interaction process.
Because the customer is the one coming and paying, it makes sense that the customer should set the tone for how he wants his dining experience. If the desired course of events does not seem to fit with the customer's desire experience, the customer should take the initiative and say something. It's the waiter's job to respond accordingly to the customer's requests, not to read minds. As a waiter, if the customer seems content or comfortable, I am not going to change my approach unless the customer gives me a reason to do so. As a customer, I operate under the notion that if I want the waiter to do something a specific way or stop doing something, I only have to ask accordingly. After all, the only thing that trumps a management policy is a request from the customer.
Naturally, vocalizing a concern or complaint should not be rude (like some of the impolite people from the USA Today article) or passive aggressive (e.g. Kent's indirect return fire questioning in response to unwanted questions from waiters). All it takes is a polite tone, a "please" and "thank you," and a direct statement of what is desired. If you do not want to hear the specials, just tell the waiter you already know what you want to order. If you do not want your check dropped without solicitation either ask in advance that it be on your call or ask the waiter if he could hold on to it for a few more minutes. No sane person is going to grumble, be offended, or act hostile in response to those requests. Maybe if you express a visceral loathing that people today don't use language in the same context as you were used to 15 years ago you'll start pushing buttons, but at that point we're back to the original debate over what should and should not reasonably be deemed offensive.
As a customer, you shouldn't be stewing quietly over issues that majorly annoy you, and if you do so, then you probably should work on getting up the nerve to articulate what you want. Just realize that the standards are going to vary substantially across the range of customers, and if you have a propensity to stricter about certain things than your average person, it's up to you to make that clear that you're an exception to the rule (and as the post has shown, people like Mr. Pollock simply are) and not just expect that to be known off the bat.