Dan Rudy – Portland
Now numbered among the rising ranks of our Dear Dirty America’s underemployed (up from the ashes of being un-such, as it were), I find myself jumping through an unpaid eleven-hour hoop of online training that my imminent employment hinges on. The road ahead is a daunting, joyless sort of one; the employee manual is a goopy honeysuckle nod to corporate policy, to nameless and excruciating servility unto the appetites of a populace largely living on the quick.
A few things come to my embittered mind as I indifferently peruse the customer handling policies. Upselling orders or ‘suggestive selling’, obfuscating values, and shuffling patrons back out the door as quickly as possible: a policy blending the gloss of a Pudong silk marketeer with all the seamy charm of a Solwezi black market bazaar, ever tinged with the murky grey edges of a con about it. It’s really little wonder that the procedure regarding all and every confrontation or complaint is to bend over backwards and right oneself in a spineless kowtow, to shower the offended customer with saccharine and coupons and promises. Caught with the second ace of spades in a game of Three-card Monte, what can one do but slither appropriately away?
And that’s if the complaint is justified. By and large I’ve seen the Platinum Rule – that ethos of the infallible customer – to be a hearty jest at reality, if that at best. The prejudice of my experience indicates that most normal people don’t complain, even when posed with the most unforgivable of trivial inconveniences. Most don’t even remember the slight when they return, week or the day next. It comes down to those rare few who pump their egos and desperately earn their bread raising hell at various establishments, who would sooner crucify the manager and flog the staff than leave without a free handout or special discount. It’s economic extortion, really.
Extorting the con-man, devil and Daniel Webster like. Black on black in a world created by the piecemeal dissolution and outsourcing of American industry and the foundation of this fatuous service economy. Held at the mercy of minimum wage, right-to-work, bottom-line troglodytes and ends-damn-the-means profit margins. Two jobs, first-strike termination, overcrowded prisons, undercut services and rampant personal debt. Profit-syphoning by corporate egomaniacs and the unstable three-legged race against regulation for that next questionable market. All bricks in that merry old wall some people like to call Capitalism. A noxious slur to the notion, if ever there was; it’s less a system than a case of bad management and systemic misuse, of short-sighted opportunism and hypocritical bootstrapped indifference.
Once I’d started an article project for Arbor Day entitled “So You Love The Environment,” subtitled Then You’re Already Doing… with a list of things – some surprising, some not so much; the article was scrapped after all – every green-blooded child of the soil should be doing/eschewing. One of these bullets was to never, never eat in a restaurant again. The sheer waste churned out on a daily basis by these establishments borders the remarkable and jumps into the tragic. Some are better than others of course, but chains and fast-food franchises are the worst. Ironically, a large dose of waste is due to following health code guidelines; those paper towels and endless latex-free gloves go someplace, invariably to the dumpster at day’s end.
Likewise, used/spoilt food (which I’m certainly not going to argue needs to be served anyway) and the considerable amounts of water needed to maintain even the smallest commercial kitchen are a consideration. It was hard to even find a figure
showing the average water consumption; for a while the best answer I could find was really a poorly written yet rather telling non-answer
. Could it be that restauranting is America’s latest in a long slew of dirty little secrets, as had been the rampant use of DDT and other pesticides some fifty years ago? [i]
Not that the industry hasn’t felt its share of arrows in the past decade, from the groundbreaking documentary Supersize Me
to an apparently rising anti-restaurant movement
as the price of nigh-on everything rises. Is it so hard to cook a meal for oneself, I ask? My roommate certainly seems to think so. But I dunno. Is it so wrong to live and work and look about in this world of ours and ask the immortal question, “Why”? If nothing else, have the decency to pay a bloke for hours served… own-time online training, my ass!
A problem that of course has since been solved. Really though, check out Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
at your local library the next opp you get.
Dan Rudy is a foul-tempered heretic frequently found around bus stops wearing a far-off expression beneath his contemptible brow. When not diving gutters for change, he maintains a blog that occasionally showcases a bit of short fiction or off-kilter recipes.