It’s always interesting to me to see which emails generate a response and which ones don’t. Evidently, the one I send about 86ing a difficult person- or really, a person with a difficult partner, a lesson in trickle-down mood and behavior- struck a chord with more than a couple of you- I’m still in the midst of replying to all the emails I got back. The majority were sympathetic, saying poor you, you don’t deserve to be treated that way, and the like. And while I appreciate the sympathy, you who wrote to say such nice things ever so slightly missed the point: I’m perfectly happy with the interchange, or at least with the result of it. Someone was difficult to deal with, and needed me to change something that, at this point for me, at least, is unchangeable. So far, the only time travel I’ve mastered is forward, and only at the rate of one second per second. I’m stuck here with the rest of you, which, most of the time, is fine. When I couldn’t change it and it was clear that he was going to be immovable on the subject, I gave away a bunch of food, but I gave it away with the accompanying pleasant new rule: I won’t keep trying to please someone who’s made it clear to me that pleasing them simply isn’t possible.
For all of you who wished me well and were appalled at his behavior? Not to dismiss you- I really appreciate your kindness- but if I’m really going to pull back the curtain, I have to tell you an unpleasant truth: this sort of difficulty, disrespect, and intransigence is something that everyone in the restaurant industry deals with on a regular basis. One of us here at Feast experiences it at least each week, sometimes a couple of times in a week, and I think we at Feast as lucky- I regard our guests as a little more educated and emotionally intelligent than most. I can assure you that the manager at a Chili’s or a Red Lobster needs a drink at the end of the night just to steady themselves enough to consider what they’ll drink next.
My email wasn’t about feeling victimized by that couple; I didn’t feel that way. They were just another belligerent couple that couldn’t be made happy. But I in turn was no victim. To me, that email was about doing my own version of what people are doing all over the nation right now: I’m not taking what I don’t want to take. People are still walking off the job in droves, or not showing up for day one or day two of work, or even showing up for an interview, because we’re all evidently meant to learn something during the pandemic, and for a lot of us, the thing we’ve learned is that we can choose how we’ll be treated. Maybe you work for a jerk, or maybe you serve jerks in your daily routine; maybe you don’t make what you feel you’re worth; maybe you need more time to yourself or for your family or your religion or whatever it is that’s important to you. Ultimately, there’s a point at which you learn what you’re willing to put up with in exchange of other things you want or need, and then behave accordingly. As for me, I’ve spent too many years being pleasant to people who treated me or my coworkers poorly, but times, of late, are different.
I’m not thrilled to be utilizing barely over half the seats we normally use in our dining room, but it’s been freeing. When you have half the seats to fill, it’s far less unnerving to wave a permanent goodbye to someone, especially someone may be good for the cash register but not for the psyche.
Anyhow, it was a good day on Tuesday, and a good one yesterday, and today seems pretty good as well thus far, partly because Our Former Guest is in my rear view mirror, and partly because I’ve at last finished and posted both our New Year’s Eve carryout hors d’oeuvre menu
and our dine-in prix fixe menu.
So thanks for all your good wishes, but I’m perfectly happy- tuck those good wishes away for now, and the next time you’re out at a restaurant, or a bowling alley, a boutique or salon or anywhere that people are making their living dealing with an inflamed and inflammatory public, pause for a moment, realize that they’ve all dealt with that guy too, or his intransigent proxy, and hand over those kind thoughts. They probably need it more than I do; I’m at least in a position where I can choose to tell someone never to come back, a luxury not everyone has.
One amazing gift you can give any or all of them this season is awareness, and I can assure you, it will be appreciated. Happiest of holidays to the lot of you.