You can’t always get what you want

“Hi,” said the couple arriving at the front door. “Two for dinner.”

“Good evening,” replied the hostess. “What name is the reservation under?”

“We don’t have reservations,” they replied.

“I’m sorry,” said the hostess. “But we are fully booked, and our last reservation is arriving right behind you.”

“I don’t understand,” said the woman.

“Neither do I,” said the man.

“What do you mean?” asked the hostess.

“Why are you closing so early?” asked the woman.

“The pandemic?” replied the hostess.

“What do you mean?”

That’s right, six months into a pandemic, and some people still want to act as if they know nothing about it. Deliberate ignorance, the belief that by denying any facts presented, one can still get what one wants, or still believe what one wants to believe.

Here are some things we in the restaurant business still hear each and every day.

“What do I need a mask for?”

“I want to sit inside.”

“It’s an emotional support dog.”

Every day. None of those things are acceptable, and the people who act like they don’t know it -I suspect-  are abundantly aware of it. Ironically, the very same person who “doesn’t know” that they need to wear a mask, also seems to know that they can get mixed drinks To Go. The same person who doesn’t understand why they can’t sit inside, seems to be acutely aware of the fact that by having an empty glass on their table, they can then be completely mask less during their entire meal, even when speaking directly to their server, just a foot or two away.

There is a belief these days that we can just disregard the rules that we don’t like and follow just the ones that we do like. Or more specifically, the rules that benefit us most at that moment, then act as if that is not what we are doing. And one way of doing that is pretending that we don’t know.

“Pedestrians have the right of way!” will yell someone crossing the freeway on foot, disregarding both the law and the safety issue at hand. They seem to know that pedestrians often have the right of way but seem oblivious to the fact that pedestrians are prohibited on the freeway.

I once sat on a hillside by my house and watched a bicyclist race down the hill. He yelled at the pedestrians to get out of his way and yet blocked the cars on the street with his bicycle. He did not see the contradiction. But he was very vocally right in both instances.

“Who do we have to get to know in order to get a table?” asked the woman at the front door.

“What do you mean?” asked the hostess. “You just make a reservation.”

“But,” asked the man. “How do we get in front of everyone else?”

“It’s first come, first served,” said the hostess.

“But we don’t want to do it that way.”

It’s often funny how a conversation that starts out about knowledge, rights and equality quickly devolves into one about privilege, cheating and ignorance.

-The mask requirement becomes negotiable because of an unstated “health problem.”

-The inside seating thing becomes a matter of “religious belief.”

-The emotional support animal quickly becomes an unverifiable “service” dog.

Jan Black once asked me in a podcast interview, what was the one thing I had learned in all my years in customer service and I responded: “As soon as you make a rule, somebody will try and get around it.” That interview was two years ago, and at the time I got some push back. I don’t think anyone would push back now.           

“We’ll just take our business elsewhere,” replied the front door couple, finally, after exhausting all their possible avenues of injustice, as well as exhausting both the staff’s mettle and their patience.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

-Good luck with that.

-“Ignorance of the law excuses no man; not that all men know the law, but because ’tis an excuse every man will plead, and no man can tell how to refute him,” once wrote English legal scholar John Selden.

-If ignorance really is bliss, why aren’t there more happy people?

-“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” once said the Reverend Martin Luther King.

-Stupid is as stupid does.

-“I forgot armed robbery was against the law,” Steve Martin, from the 1979 comedy album, “Comedy is not Pretty.”