Friday, April 24, 2009

As You Were

My dear friend and blogger-extraordinaire, Mommakin, recently posted a wonderful offering about the importance of being true to yourself. Her posts always make me think, and this particular gem made me contemplate the importance of allowing others to be themselves, as well. Accepting others for who they are is often difficult, but always important.

I am not proposing that bigots, racists, and other small-minded people should walk through this world unchallenged. I am simply saying that, when interacting with people - even stupid people - it is important to deal with them on their own terms.

Last Saturday at the wine shop, a group of ladies came in and sat down at the bar. I know them to be regulars, though I do not know their names. I said to one of them, "So, can I get you something to drink?" She looked me right in the eye and said, "OK, that was perhaps the stupidest thing you could have just asked me, since I'm in a wine shop, bellied-up to the bar, and looking at the wine list, obviously trying to make up my mind. I'm just going to pretend you never even said that, and continue on with my life as if you were actually intelligent."

(OK, her actual words were, "Well, yeah...," but they hit the air between us with such heavy sarcasm and dismissive attitude that she clearly MEANT what I wrote in the previous paragraph. If anyone else had heard it, they would tell you it was obvious. Honest.)

In this exchange, I was clearly the stupid person she had to deal with. What I meant to ask, of course, was, "What can I get you to drink?" But, I phrased the question a bit too passively, and she chose to act upon the opportunity to make a point of my milquetoast, noncommittal phraseology. I mean, I'm behind the bar, and it's my job to take her order, so there was really no doubt about what I was trying to ask her. If she had just given me her order or asked for a minute to decide, the whole moment would have passed without any worthwhile notoriety. Also, I would not have spit in her wine. (Just kidding - but that was fun to imagine.)

Why did this woman feel the need to make an issue of my question? By taking such an attitude, she accomplished nothing positive, whatsoever.

To further my point, I took the "high road" here (which I do not always do) and continued to smile at her and treat her as a welcomed guest throughout her visit. She clearly wanted to be dealt with directly, so I obliged. Every other question I asked her was short, courteous, and to the point. If I had returned her attitude, or grown a pissy one of my own, we both would have been miserable as the night wore on. Instead, I'm proud to say, I just smiled and "made nice." By the time she paid her tab (in fact she pad ALL of their tabs!), she had spent quite a bundle, and left a sizable tip.

Sure, the wine probably lubricated her demeanor to some extent, but still, I'd like to think that the way I handled the situation struck a chord with this woman. If this were a film, set in my imaginary universe, we would now watch a scene from the next morning. As the Guest Of The Year enjoys Cafe Americano and warm scones on her veranda, she would gaze out across her vast, manicured lawn and contemplate the previous day, replaying our exchange in her mind. "What a delightful man," she would certainly think. "Even though I acted boorish and brutish, he was kind and charming the whole night through. I've learned my lesson - I'm never going to be rude to the help EVER AGAIN!"

I imagine she would then turn right around and yell, "Consuela! El coffee-o est cold-o! More caliente, dammit!!!"

See? Even in my fantasy world I can't change people. I guess you just gotta' live and let live.


smarmygal said...

Good for you, Shan. The High Road, indeed. You are a much better person than I. I would have, indeed, spit in her wine and likely hav espent the rest of the evening talking to her in pig latin, or you know, ACTUAL Latin, just to make HER feel stupid. Reason #8,482 why I love you :)

Tammy Howard said...

Excellent post, Shan. And not just 'cause you fed me compliments (nom nom nom - my favorite) and linked me.


I really like the whole tone of this and couldn't agree more wholeheartedly. And you're right, bigots and racists and other small-minded people should not walk through the world unchallenged, but they do indeed have a right to walk through the world.

You have to choose your battles.

I think you chose wisely, my friend.

Chris - could you have really spoken to her in Latin all night? 'Cause I'd like to hear that!

Tammy Howard said...

award for you over at my blog - stop by and pick it up!

Alex the Girl said...

Hi, I'm Alex

I'd like a nice, wet white wine with a hint of fruit flavor, easy on the oak. Tammy said you were doing the bar at her island vacation this week and was brewing up some sweet new drink for us to try.

Seriously, your first paragraph had me gasping, "she said what?" Great post. Glad you took the high road, its so much better than sinking in quick sand.

Jenny Penny said...

Hi! I'm Jenny, and I just got up from my catnap in the cabana over at Mommakin's island getaway. She said you were tending bar here, so I thought I'd belly up. I need something strong enough to kill swine flu, or at least make me forget about it. Oh, and I'll need a Styrofoam cup to hold my tabacky spittle. First, though, I'd like a bit of red wine. I like a good Malbec.

Seriously, now, I have seen your comments on Chris' stuff at Facebook, and I always think what nice friends she seems to have in you and yours. I didn't know you had a blog, and if you don't mind, I'm going to follow it. I've enjoyed what I've read so far. Also, if you own a wine shop, I might have a few questions for you as the party continues over at Fantasy Island Beach.