An old acquaintance of mine was fond of saying that after a person hits 30, the only one who has any business yelling at them is their romantic partner. I'm personally not a fan of marital histrionics, either, but I certainly appreciate the sentiment. Especially when the ire is directed toward people who are just trying to do their jobs.
But is loudly shaming those shamers the optimal solution?
If you managed to crawl out of your tryptophan haze long enough to look at the internet this holiday weekend, you almost surely came across the Tweeted tale of Elan Gale and "Diane in 7A." Gale, a producer for ABC's The Bachelor, allegedly found himself on a Phoenix-bound flight with a medical mask-wearing woman who, by his account (which he later revealed on Twitter to be a hoax), was being rude to the airline staff. In the exchange, he decided to take a stand and call her out on her behavior.
Gale took to his Tumblr to put the situation in context, saying he was advocating for workers who shouldn't have to weather the nastiness of the people they're doing their best to serve.
"I don’t care what’s going on with you: Don’t be rude to people who are doing their job," he wrote. "Don’t dismiss them. Don’t act like they are less than you. Don’t abuse them just because you’re the customer and 'The Customer Is Always Right.'"
Gale was hailed in some sectors of the internet and media as having "won" the holiday by having the guts to confront an impolite customer. Others weren't buying it, saying he'd negated any stated good intentions with his hostile and bullying language toward his fellow passenger, directing her in more than one note to...consume a body part belonging to him, using profanity and sending her drinks after she'd said she had found the first one offensive.
The internet, shockingly enough, failed to come to a consensus about who was the victor in the mile-high contretemps. However, one truth did soar to the fore: It is never, ever, ever cool to be rude to someone working in a service position.
But that happens all the time - often perpetrated by people whom we love, or at least share the bonds of employment, blood or law. How best do you deal, while still allowing everyone to keep their dignity (and not turn it in on you)? A few thoughts:
If possible, they'll find the berated worker, usually cowering in a corner, apologize and hand over a small amount of the local currency. It's not ideal, but they've avoided any major international incidents...so far.
As each of his children became old enough to take a stand, they opted out and refused to dine with the family. Eventually he got the message and toned it down enough for them to choke down a meal in his company - even if it meant a little heartburn later.
When I saw our server a few weeks later, I apologized again. It turned out that she'd been on the verge of "accidentally" dropping a very cold beverage in his lap, but didn't want to get any on me.
But that's what happens; incivility splashes onto everyone who witnesses it. While the rest of us can flee the scene, service workers are forced to stand in place and do so with a smile, for fear of losing their job.
That's not ideal, though, and short of everyone in the restaurant-going world taking mandatory manners classes or made to wear a "Do not serve this person" medallion after one too many infractions, it's going to keep happening. You've heard my potential solutions above, and I'd love to hear yours. Let us all know in the comments below how you choose to deal with restaurant rudeness by both strangers and friends, and we'll serve up the best ones in a future Eatocracy post.
Meanwhile, Elans and "Diane from 7As" of the world, how about taking a deep breath and keeping the skies friendly for the rest of us? Drinks are on me - or possibly you if you don't keep it civil.