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)