My New Role Models

I tip especially well when a haircut is bad.  That’s because I hate to hurt the cosmetologist’s feelings.  Who cares about my shitty haircut and the fact I should really be wearing a paper bag over my head?  Not me.

Similarly, when I’m served a terrible meal, it makes me feel awful.  If I can’t eat it, I’m capable of shifting it around on the plate so it looks half-eaten or cutting it into small pieces or trying to foist it off on somebody else’s plate so its inedibility will be less obvious.  Oh, and then I tip big, of course.  What did you expect?

All of which is why I was both thrilled and horrified to be having lunch with some of my friends the other day.  Out came the entrees.

Before Pat even dipped a spoon into her soup, she already didn’t like the color.  “This tastes terrible,” she announced in a loud voice.

Karen had gotten something else.  An enchilada, maybe?  I don’t know.  I was mostly watching her face, which wrinkled up like she’d just stepped into a latrine.  “I hate this,” she said.

I tasted my entree, a couple of mediocre tacos.  Who cared?  I’ve had worse.

A few minutes later, the waiter hovered.  “And how is everything?” he wanted to know.

“Fine,” I said, in a loud voice.

“This is terrible,” Pat said, pushing the soup away from her.  “I can’t eat this.”

“This is bad, too,” Karen said.

By that time, I was even beginning to question my tacos.  Were they really mediocre — or were they just bad?  Nothing spoils my appetite like conflict.  Especially restaurant conflict.

“Can I get you something else?” the waiter asked.

Yes, he could.  Karen and Pat ordered something else.  “Will you take this bowl away?” Pat sniffed, pointing at her soup.  The soup and enchiladas disappeared with murmured apologies.  Two new entrees reappeared.

“It was amazing watching the two of you send back your food the other day,” I told Pat and Karen a few days later.  “You’re now my role models.”

They stopped short and exchanged glances.  “I’ve never done anything like that before,” Pat said.  “That’s not like me at all.”

“Neither have I,” Karen said.  “I don’t know what got into me.”

They went on, protesting vehemently about what big wimps they really are.  “Shut up,” I told them.  “You’re going to be my restaurant customer role models, like it or not.  You can’t take it back.”

“You know those nachos I got to replace that awful soup?” Pat said.  “Well, they weren’t any better than the soup.  I should have sent them back, too.”

There.  That’s more like it.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

4 comments… add one
  • Since I worked in the restaurant business for years, I’m pretty picky about getting good service and good food. But, I try to be nice about it. And still have it replaced.

  • M A Link

    I know what this is about. “Nice/good/polite” (you choose the adjective) girls don’t complain. Anyway, that’s what we were taught & now Pat & Karen have broken the mold. You also said, “shut up,” which nice girls are NOT encouraged to say, either. And I say, “Go, girls!” Stand up for your right to eat decent food that you pay for in restaurants. And STOP tipping for bad service. You’re rewarding bad behavior and making the rest of us look bad. That’s not nice…

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    That’s why Pat and Karen are my role models.

  • Steve Link

    I’ve embarassed my spouse many times over the years by declining to accept bad food.  Like most nice girls, she’d never think of returning it. A couple of Christmases ago at a French restaurant in Manhattan, she ordered what she thought was crepes on the menu.  The waiter’s face noticably disfigured at the order.  With what I am sure the waiter found to be a startling if not hilarious Texas accent, I asked,  “Sumpthin’ wrong with that dish?”  He shrugged and said, “Is… not my favorite dish.”  I ordered the Chilean sea bass in a puffy pastry.  When our food was served, my plate was a thing of beauty;  Beth was served a bowl of gray gruel.  “What is THAT??” we asked in stereo.  “Is…what you ordered,” the waiter sheepishly replied.   It seems that, rather than “crepes,” Beth ordered “cepes,” which is a porridge made from a particular mushroom.  The waiter offered to take it back, but the nice girl demurred, of course:  “It’s fine.”   “The hell it is,” I said, “I’m not paying $40 for sumpthin’ neither one of us is gonna eat.”  He graciously removed the swill and we split my dish.  It left us with available dollars and calories, which we spent on a handmade sorbet.

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