Many years ago in a cafeteria far, far away, I was in a position to see the true character emerge from certain members of the human race.
This experience came not as a counselor in a psychiatric setting, but rather as a food service professional.
I will never forget the day a woman stood in a crowded dining room and screamed at me because she didn’t like the way her fried chicken tasted.
I noticed all the bones on her plate had been picked clean before she discovered the bird didn’t meet her expectations.
But she was a jumping-up-and-down crazy woman, so I quickly apologized and refunded her money.
Waiters and waitresses are witness every day to the underbelly of true character.
One of these witnesses recently sent a note to me chronicling some of the things he sees on a routine basis.
The waiter said it is not unusual for someone to find fault with the food or food preparation just to get a complementary meal.
This particular waiter also sees people order water and extra lemon, then use a half-dozen expensive sweeteners to make free lemonade.
The waiter watches as couples share a cup of coffee and ask for refills.
He is witness to folks who pile up a salad-bar plate and then ask for a carry-out container.
All of this results in more food and drink for a smaller tab, which means the customers can justify — at least to themselves — a smaller tip. While we might admire their resourcefulness, their stinginess is unbecoming.
It hurts to know some of these customers are wearing their Sunday church clothes when they reveal their true character.
If they cannot love others as they love themselves, perhaps they should at least remember a lot of bad things can befall a dish between the kitchen and the table.
It’s always a good idea to treat waiters and waitresses with the same respect shown to the postman. Never scream at the person who determines whether your mortgage payment makes it to the bank. Ditto for the person who delivers your fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
None of this is to dismiss the fact that bad food and poor service exist. They do.
(And I have a particular pet peeve involving food servers who try to memorize complex orders rather than writing them down. The journalist in me wants them to take good notes.)
But addressing such issues does not require the customer to be a jerk.
Let’s hope the world still has enough courteous and generous customers to counterbalance the mean and the stingy.
Executive Editor Scott Morris can be reached at 256-740-5721 or scott.morris@TimesDaily.com.