“Hey!” said the man waving his hand in my face as I leaned over to garnish two drinks.
“Just a second,” I said, trying to look around his hand at the task I was attempting to finish.
“Hey!” he said again obviously not hearing me.
Marcel Proust once wrote, “Monsieur de Charlus made no reply and looked as if he had not heard, which was one of his favorite forms of rudeness.”
I smiled at the thought.
“Hey!” said the man again, waving his hand between my face and the garnished drinks I had just picked up.
“Just a second!” I said, turning to deliver the drinks at the other end of the bar.
“How rude,” he said.
In the customer service business rudeness on the part of the customer is often just part of the equation. A new bartender once ask me what to do about rude people.
“Do your job,” I said. “You can’t control other people; the only thing you can control is your reaction to them.”
I don’t think he appreciated my answer. He never asked me another question and he got out of bartending soon after. I think he went on to become a therapist. Change comes from within and all that stuff.
I once worked for a man who hung a sign over the door that led out of the kitchen and into the dining room that proclaimed, “The customers can be jerks, deal with it.”
In this era of political correctness a sentiment like that probably wouldn’t fly, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
My belief is that rudeness says more about the person being rude than about the person the rudeness is directed at.
In the spirit of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others etc., etc.,” I offer four things directed my way every day, behaviors that in reverse would certainly be considered as rude.
• Throwing a credit card or cash onto the bar, or in some cases, even at the bartender. I often wonder what would happen if I threw the change back.
• Ignoring a question. Monsieur Proust had it right. For instance, “Would you like that medium rare?” is not answered by, “What wines do you have by the glass?” Nor is it answered by just staring. Imagine a bartender or waiter outright ignoring your question. Now that would rude, huh?
• Interrupting the taking of another guest’s order. I sometimes wonder how an interrupting person would feel if I turned to them, listened to his order halfway through and then turned away from him, as if he had never said anything. One day I’m going to try it, but I think I will update my resume first.
The point is that customer service can sometimes be trying, but it is still customer service. Either get over it or get on with something else because people aren’t going to change.
That thought was still bouncing around my head as, drinks delivered, I returned to Mr. Hand Waver.
He took one look at me and raised both his hands.
“Sit and stay,” he said pointing down as if I were a dog.
“Get out,” I said.
He looked dumbfounded.
“It was a joke.”
“I don’t care.”
“Get out now!”
Eventually the manager got involved and the man left. Proving that idle rudeness is often tolerated, but overt rudeness will still get you thrown out. Leaving me with these further thoughts:
• “The customer is always right is a quote clearly designed by a customer,” says Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in the new movie “Steve Jobs” in theaters now.
• “Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength,” wrote philosopher Eric Hoffer, and he was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.
• “Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage,” said Nobel Peace Prize-winner Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy also said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” a thought that resonates more completely with me. Besides, wasn’t the Nobel Prize funded by the guy who invented high explosives?