Wednesday, October 26, 2011

eat mor chikin, just don't be a jackass

Confrontation isn't my strong suit. Generally I enjoy getting along with people and avoiding conversations that make me feel awkward.

(I mean, unless some hoochie tries to take the last adorable leather jacket I've been eyeing for WEEKS at Nordstrom Rack. Then I'll cut a bitch.)

But on the average day, I'd prefer smiles and joy rather than yelling and angry eyes.

Yesterday was not an average day. Here's what happened.


It's 11:30 am on a gorgeous fall day. I have a lunch presentation at noon with a very large client that I want to make a great impression on. My hair looks nice (aka it's clean and combed), my outfit makes my legs look long and I feel prepared.  I just need to pick up the catering for the presentation.

I pull into the Chick-Fil-A parking lot feeling calm and ready. I open the glass door and step inside. It is mass chaos. At least four children are crying, the line is a mile long and the cashiers look like they're going to commit suicide at any second.

Remaining calm, I step into the food line and wait for the six people in front of me to order. My watch reads 11:34. Eep.

A frazzled kid of about 17 stands behind me and audibly sighs at the line. I turn and shrug my shoulder as if to say, "Whaddya gonna do?"  And really, it's not so bad. The cashiers are moving quickly; people are in high spirits. I relax.

Suddenly a groan booms from a few feet away. A man in his late 50's stands behind Frazzle Kid. The man is bald with intense brown eyes and a permanent scowl, which is doing nothing for the wrinkles on his face that have clearly formed from years of grumpiness.

"Which damn line you in?" he grumbles to Frazzle.

"Uh, not sure," Frazzle squeaks. "I think it's just the one line and you disperse as you get up to the front, ya know?"

Grumpy scoffs and runs a hand over his greasy head. "This is so ridiculous. I'm in a hurry."

"Next," calls a young cashier. I've been so preoccupied with Grumpy and Frazzle's conversation, I've failed to realize it's my turn.

"That's me!" Grumpy calls out and jumps in front of me and Frazzle, waving his credit card.

Remember, I don't love confrontation. But this guy is trying to jump in front of at least two people. Not cool. Do I say something? I glance at my watch. 11:39. Time to get confrontational.

I act quickly and beat Grumpy to the counter.

"I'm actually next," I say with a smile. "I'm just here to pick up my catering order. My name's Kim."

"Oh sure," the adorable cashier with a bouncy ponytail smiles. She can't be a day over 16. "Just step over to the side and we'll get you all taken care of. I can help the next person!"

Frazzle doesn't have a chance. Grumpy flies up to the register, elbowing me further to the end of the counter. He puts his credit card in the young cashiers face and yells, "I want a chicken sandwich, no pickles and a fry. Put it on this card, right here."

That extra helping of Chick-Fil-A happiness training kicks in and Ponytail Girl smiles even wider. "Of course, sir," she says through clenched teeth. "And your drink?"

Grumpy shifts his weight and puffs out his chest. "I don't WANT a drink. I already told you that! Chicken sandwich, no pickles. Fries. That's it! On the credit card right here."

I can feel the entire restaurant holding their breath. Children have stopped crying and watch the scene playing out. Ponytail Girl has her smile screwed on so tight I'm afriad her cheeks are going to break. This can't go on.

I open my mouth to say something, but the manager has just emerged with my food. I can just walk away, pay my tab and be done with it. There's no need to get involved. Grumpy will get his food and karma will handle him later. But that isn't right. I know Ponytail Girl can't say anything because the customer is always right.

Well I'm a customer, too, and I decide to show Grumpy what is right.

I move back down the counter, take a deep breath and speak.

"Sir, you really shouldn't speak that way to her. She's doing the best she can to get your food and you're being incredibly rude."

Grumpy turns in slow motion and looks me up and down, his eyes blazing.

"You can eff off," he spits, obviously not using the politically correct term. "Leave me the eff alone, bitch."

Ow. That stung. It also makes me mad.

"Wow." I shake my head in disappointment and turn to Ponytail Girl. "I apologize for this man. He is very rude and you don't deserve that."

"And you should mind your own effing business," Grumpy yells, his voice growing louder with every word. "Be a lady in your stupid black suit and shut your effing mouth before I teach you a lesson."

My eyes narrow into slits and I see red. "You know, I AM a lady. I would never speak to someone like you are. You should be ashamed of yourself."

"Eff off, bitch. Get a life!" Grumpy screams and I can tell this isn't getting me anywhere. I've said my piece and I can't do anything else. 

I resist the urge to use my knee (which is covered in my stupid suit) to discombobulate a sensitive area of his anatomy. An employee hands me my catering bags and walks out with me to my car.

As I climb into the driver's seat, I'm kicking myself for not coming up with something more clever to say. I look down and realize my hands are shaking. I'm so angry I don't even know what to do with myself.

I need a drink of my Dr. Pepper. (We'll address the fact that I'm an addict later, okay?) Except I left my drink on the counter. I have to go back in.

Mother of pearl.

Assuming that Grumpy Grumperson is probably long gone by now, I gather myself and head back toward the restaurant. No such luck. Grumpy is on his way out. We are going to collide right outside the restaurant...where there are less witnesses.

Still in a hurry, Grumpy doesn't notice me until he's out the door. Suddenly his eyes register recognition. Armed with his sack of chicken sandwich and no pickles, he charges by me in a cloud of anger and snarls, "Eat sh*t and die, you nasty bitch."


He skulks to his Mercedes which is naturally taking up two spots and drives away like a very un-talented Andretti.

"Thank you for saying something to that horrible man," a small voice says from the patio. A young woman is sitting with her daughter enjoying their lunch.

"I just can't believe someone else didn't say something," she continues, taking a bite of her french fry. "You know there was a table full of cops right behind you, don't you? They didn't say a word."

I shrug my shoulders. "It was loud enough in there, maybe they didn't hear what was going on," I reply. "Either way, I don't think I really helped. I just don't like to see people treated that way."

The woman smiles at me as she cuts a piece of chicken for her daughter. "Well, you did the right thing."

As I head back into the restaurant to grab my totally deserved Dr. Pepper for the day, I think to myself, "was that the right thing to do? Maybe the man was sick in the head, or drunk, or having a really, really bad day?

Then I decide that there is never an excuse to speak to someone that way. Plus, I would have felt crummy all day if I hadn't spoken up. I've worked in restaurants and retail many times in my life and have been treated terribly. I wanted someone to come to my defense then, and I'd still want them to now. I would want someone to do the right thing, even if it didn't really get them anywhere. At the very least I know Grumpy had to have felt at least a tiny bit humiliated by a girl half his age telling him he was a bozo. Right?

What would you have done?