Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” And that is as true for the front door of a restaurant as anything that I have ever read.
When the man walked in the front door, the host looked up from his reservation screen, ever so briefly.
“Nice to see you again,” said the host. “You are early.”
“What do you mean?” asked the arriving man.
“Aren’t you here to pick up an order?” asked the host.
“No,” replied the man. “I am here for a reservation.”
“I am so sorry, I thought you were someone else.”
“Who did you think I was?” asked the man.
“It’s not important,” replied the host.
“It’s important to me,” replied the man.
Some rivers can be swifter than other rivers. And some rivers are deceptively treacherous.
“What’s the name on the reservation?” asked the host.
“I’m not telling you until you tell me who you thought I was?”
Sometimes involving a manager earlier is better than involving one later, and this was one of those times.
“I thought you were Karl, the [insert food delivery service name] driver.”
A simple mistake, one that anyone could make.
“Do I look like a food delivery driver?” asked the man.
“I am sorry,” replied the host. “You look just like him.”
Better late than never, certainly applied here, because the manager appeared, as if on cue.
“Oh, hey Karl,” said the manager before anyone could speak.
“I’m not Karl,” replied the man.
What then transpired was a 20 minute argument of varying volumes about “mistaken identities” and “stereotypes” and “assumptions” up to and including the old trope: “make an ass of you and me.”
“And I’m not an ass. Are you?” asked the man.
It’s hard in customer service to respond once someone starts using profanity. But much like that river, not all profanity is as profane as some would think. And in getting stuck on a single word can sometimes lead people to forget what they are doing, and why they are there.
Just then, the man’s wife arrived, just in time to hear this:
“Do I look like a delivery guy?”
“What’s going on?” asked the wife.
“This guy thinks I look like some loser delivery driver,’ said the man.
“I’m sorry,” replied the manager cocking his head. “I am not sure what you are driving at. Are you saying there is something wrong with being a delivery driver?”
The angry man stopped talking for just a second. It wasn’t the mistaken identity that was the problem, it was “who” he was mistaken for that was.
Often people reveal truths about themselves in the arguments that they get into. Not so much in the substantive part; the facts (whether just believed or proven), but in the way that they argue. Is there any listening involved? Is there mutual respect? If neither is present, or immediately disappears, then it’s not really an argument, it’s a fight and that’s an entirely different thing.
“I am sorry, again, for the confusion,” replied the manager, moving things along like good managers always do. “But your table is ready.”
The host meanwhile had long ago found something else to do. And it was wisely somewhere else.
“I have to use the restroom,” replied the wife. “I will find you at the table.”
The host peeked around the corner, and then, only when it was determined that all was clear, returned to his post.
“I’m here for a pickup,” said the newest arrival at the front door.
The host looked up at the man carefully. And then looked at him again, just to be sure.
“Hey Karl,” said the host. “Let me grab the order,” he said retreating to the kitchen. Karl meanwhile turned and looked out the window.
“You waited for me. You are so sweet,” said the wife exiting the bathroom and grabbing Karl by the arm.
Karl looked at her, and she looked at him.
“I am so sorry,” she said. “I thought you were somebody else.”
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-I’ll bet nobody mentioned that at the table.
-“People who wish to be offended will always find some occasion for taking offense,” once wrote Methodist John Wesley.
-There is no shame in honest work, and if there is, it’s never on the part of the work, nor on the part of person doing it.
– “He who takes offense when offense was not intended is a fool, yet he who takes offense when offense is intended is an even greater fool,” once said Mormon pioneer Brigham Young.
-“Heraclitus.” I await the angry letters.