We return once more to your stereotypical American diner. Seated in a booth by the window is yours truly, glancing over the menu while absentmindedly flicking my cigarette lighter on and off.
“Excuse me, but you can’t smoke in here.”
I turn to see a waiter standing over me.
“You can’t smoke in here”.
“But I wasn’t smoking.”
“Sir, you need to stop smoking in here.”
At this, the waiter hauls off and socks me straight in the face. He turns around and promptly walks off. Regaining my senses, I begin to unleash a torrent of confused profanities, leading the manager to saunter over and ask what what the problem is.
“That waiter just punched me in the face!”
A weary smile flickers over the manager’s face.
“Yes,” he says, “Well resolving conflicts with customers is part of the waiter’s job.”
“Yeah, I know, but he punched me! Did he have to punch me in the face?!”
“Waiters are given excellent training on resolving customer complaints.”
“He punched me in the face!”
I lift my hands from the bruised cartilage of my nose, already beginning to turn a lovely purplish color.
“Ah,” said the manager, “well as we all know, waiters have a stressful and thankless job…”
“…And when you think about it, most waiters don’t go around punching people in the face. Most waiters are good waiters.”
“I don’t think that not punching a customer in the face is the same as being a good waiter- but that’s not the issue. That one just punched me!”
“Okay, okay- how about I review what happened and then make my decision? How does that sound?”
“Fine!” I say, throwing up my hands.
The manager leaves my booth to have a quick conversation with the pugilistic waiter. After a moment, he returns.
“Okay, my answer is that the waiter was just doing his job.”
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!”
At this, one of the patrons at a table across from me begins to shake his head.
“He’s the manager,” he says, “I think the guy with all the facts is a little more qualified to make a judgement than you…”
“But everyone saw it! For ****’s sake- that guy over there got it on video!”
“Sir,” the manager said in a flat, stern voice, “you’re going to need to stop making a scene. You’re disturbing the other guests.”
“I’m making a scene? That waiter punched me!”
“I’ve never been punched by a waiter…” This statement was delivered by the gentleman in the booth behind me. He was wearing an expensive suit and smoking a cigar. “…and I expect that if you stopped trying to blame your problems on slavery took some actual responsibility, waiters wouldn’t punch you either.”
“The **** does slavery have to do with anything?”
“See?” He said, turning the man seated across from him, “This is the kind of irresponsible whining that drags down the booth community. If they’d just stop listening to rap music and wearing saggy pants, waiters wouldn’t have to punch them.”
“You think I deserve to be punched because I’m wearing saggy pants? I’m not even wearing saggy pants!”
My pleas fell on deaf ears, however, as my neighbors in the booth behind me were busy in a conversation on how it was high time that the booth community starting acting more like the people who had tables.
“Dammit!” I said to the manager, “This will not stand!”
“Well what are you going to do about it?”
But I never got to say what I would do, for at that moment, we heard a crash from the other end of the restaurant. Another booth person had gotten up on his table and thrown his water onto the floor.
“Hey- he’s right. this is bull****! My family and I have been punched six times since we’ve been here, and we haven’t even gotten our food yet!”
“Yeah, he’s right!”
“I’ve been treated like crap ever since I got to this restaurant!”
The manager looked back at me, his piggish eyes full of wrath.
“You see what you’ve done? Now booth people are going around destroying private property and looting and whatnot! You’re disturbing the other patrons!”
“Shouldn’t the other patrons be more concerned that waiters are going around punching people?”
“If you booth people would stop breaking the restaurant rules, we wouldn’t have to! Don’t blame your inability to follow the rules on us!”
“But there are like twelve people smoking at tables right now!”
“Ah, but they seem like good kids. Who doesn’t get into a little trouble when they’re young? We’ll let them off with a warning.”
“HEY!” the manager shouted at the protestors (the vast majority of whom had not broken anything, and were just standing in angry silence), “if you don’t sit down and shut up, we’ll disperse you by force! Why can’t you people just behave?”
“Dude,” I said, “Just make your waiters stop-”
I was going to say “punching us”, but before I could do so, a waiter punched me. As I ebbed into unconsciousness, I heard hear the snooty man in the booth next to me sneering that “if booth people act like animals, they get treated like animals…”
I wonder if they have these problems at the Canadian diner across the street.