I love to write. It’s one of my hobbies. In my life there isn’t much space or time for hobbies, so writing is precious to me because it can happen anywhere, anytime. I try to keep up on this blog, sometimes I even peck away at a someday cookbook, but Facebook is a great avenue for me to drop a quick story. I draw upon my life, usually it’s challenging accounts of parenthood, but occasionally I share a story from work. It’s an unusual job so people like to hear about it, and in some ways I embrace my opportunity to give my industry, one often misunderstood, a voice. Writing also helps me process difficult situations, which usually delivers me a humorous outcome. That’s important for me. If I can find a way to laugh, I can get through anything.
So here’s the deal, if you are in my life there’s a possibility that someday you’ll directly or indirectly end up in one of my stories. I never name names, and honestly, it’s very rare that I bring any negative attention to anyone specifically. Usually people’s participation is written from a general direction, i.e. difficult customers, parents, hurdles, today’s challenges. I think we all have to embrace the fact that we are all playing roles in each other’s stories. And as long as we are kind, then retelling those stories shouldn’t be a problem. Some of you may disagree… If so, to be brutally honest, I can almost assure you that someday you are going to end up in someone’s stories if you haven’t already!
We’re getting deep here, so bear with me… or in this case bare with me!
Some of you think you are owed the right to only be seen in positive light. That’s just not reality. We have to be responsible for the way we act. And ya, trust me, sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes I’m tired and stressed and I don’t bring my best foot forward. Sometimes I’m accused of being cold or bitchy. Those are descriptions I have to live with. Are they warranted? Sure, I have a Dr’s note that could probably explain all of them, and a resting bitch face with a mind of its own. But that doesn’t matter. We don’t get to go around life defending ourselves. We have to be right with the skin we live in, and if we aren’t, then that’s work for ourselves not work for everyone around us. We are in charge of our own happiness. If I walk away from a situation with regret, then I go back to the drawing board, and almost always the first line says, ‘What could I have done differently.’ Life is real, it happens in real time. We all make mistakes, and thank God, because it would be extremely hard to be friends with someone who didn’t. How we grow from those mistakes is what determines if I particularly choose to be friends with you. I’m assuming it’s one of the reasons you choose to be friends with me. I’m also assuming my desire to turn negative issues into a reason to laugh is another reason you choose to be friends with me.
If I’m being truthful, I have never worked in a restaurant where the staff didn’t share horror stories about difficult customers during or at the end of each shift. Now, if I’m being very truthful, I’ve never worked in any job in any industry where that didn’t happen. Banking, retail, hotels, newspapers. They all had famous vent sessions. Some cramped in back stock rooms, employee break rooms, some go full out over drinks at Happy Hour. You are being reviewed for potential vent session material everything you do everywhere you go. More than likely, you will not make the cut. Congrats. But a few of you occasionally will. Don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger. This isn’t going to change, all I can say is don’t let it get to you. The stories are quickly replaced by the next, they hold no stock. It really doesn’t matter unless you’re a repeat offender. In that case, stop being difficult. That’s all I got, I’m not a counselor, but you might consider seeing one. Anyway, sometimes having this information is helpful. I’m hoping anyway!
What I mean is, we have to choose for ourselves what we allow to be acceptable and where we draw the line for too much. I sometimes have annoying requests when I go out. I’m not a bad customer, but I can be needy. If I can find a way to add more calories to my food I probably will, usually in sauce form. It’s not unusual for me to order 4 different sauces with fried chicken. I’ve been a server, trust me, I know how irritating that is. I try hard to compensate my server for their extra time, and hopefully that eases the pain. But ultimately I have to weigh the inconvenience I may cause to others to get what I want against the probability that I may be featured in a later vent session. And so do you. Now this brings us to the main point of this whole blog and usually in a round about way most of my others. Life is about choices from the moment we wake up until the second we fall asleep. And there are many different consequences and considerations involved in making those choices. How big of a pain in the ass are we to others, and are we giving the other person an opportunity to fairly respond. That response may be in conversation, that response may be in their reaction after you leave. We don’t necessarily get to choose. But we do have to choose to be okay with the result. You get to be in charge of you, not how other people feel about you. That doesn’t mean you just get to be mean, that means if you choose to be mean you have to choose to accept another person’s poor opinion of you. If you handle a situation poorly, you don’t get a do-over. You live, you learn, and you move forward wiser and stronger. My extra sauces are worth the potential target later. I make that choice. In the grand scheme of things I like my chances.
This week my chances weren’t so good. I wish I could have a do-over, but like I said, that’s not how it works. I had a difficult conversation with a customer that ended up being part of a later Facebook post on my personal page. To be honest the mention of this customer was really more of an avenue to deliver a laugh about me almost swallowing a fly. It had been a rough day that concluded with me sucking a fly out of a straw. I declared that in fact was the last straw, and from that point on I rode out the storm of my Shit Thursday in the privacy and safety of my home. Long story short, a mutual friend shared that post with this customer and she shared it with the world, specifically in review form of my restaurant. First of all, that’s not fair. I have 24 employees that rely on our business to provide for their families. They did absolutely nothing wrong and affecting their income is misdirected. But, I can’t do anything about that other than try to continue to provide my crew with as positive a place as I can for the time they are here separated from their loved ones. I also offer my sincerest apologies for any aftermath this causes them. They won’t take my apology because I know they agree with me on this whole issue, but nonetheless I am sorry they got drug into the mess. That I can regret. The truth of the matter is this particular customer wasn’t offering me a fair chance in our conversation. She needed me to admit I was wrong, but truthfully my memory proved differently. Using what information and the resources I had available to me, I reached the same conclusion each time, one different from her memory. I’m not calling her a liar. I’m not saying I was lying. Apparently we have opposing views on what may have happened two months ago. That’s all I can say. I genuinely can’t remember the past the way she wants me to. I had photographic evidence, menu sheets and employees that all agree with what I remember. If she could’ve provided me with evidence of her memory, then maybe this whole issue could’ve been resolved more easily. But it really doesn’t matter. Who was right is so really not that important anymore. What matters is I didn’t give in and neither did she. Now before you go and tell me the customer is always right, please know, after seeing and experiencing years of abuse from customers to employees, I don’t blindly agree with that old adage anymore. I care deeply for my employees, I see the the sacrifices they make to be here and I know how hard they work. If a customer is being offensive or rude, I don’t allow it. People are people and they all deserve the same respect, regardless of what uniform they’re wearing. Now this customer wasn’t cursing at me or anything like that. I don’t want to give that impression. I thought she was implying something that later, and I’m actually grateful for this, her review confirmed she wasn’t. She was just adamantly needing me to agree with something that I could not. Now I could go on to mention many things, like this plate of food in question isn’t even on our lunch menu and it was extremely accommodating of the lunch cooks to cook this plate with a kitchen completely unprepared for the majority of the ingredients required for this dish. I could also mention for never making this plate of food they executed it brilliantly. These are things my customer didn’t give me a chance to say, and my defense for my kitchen was probably fueling my stubbornness. But I will choose to say them now because although she thinks it’s unprofessional of me to talk about customers outside of work, I think it’s unprofessional of me not to highlight the great things my employees do. My employees are my first priority. My customers are next. I realize thats an unpopular opinion to hear, but it’s an honest one. And truthfully, any good restaurant owner would agree, albeit whispered out of hearing range from their dining room.
I agreed to be honest a long time ago, friends. No point in backtracking now just because it gets a little hairy.
Now, could I have handled this whole situation better. Absolutely, and I’ve spent the better part of three days considering all the ways. But the only regret I have about my Facebook post is that it was never intended as a weapon but it was indirectly used as one. And that makes me sad. Truthfully, the whole point of the story was to be a vessel with which to offer a shared laugh over a incident with a fly. It was just my way of adding a laugh to the top of a shit pie.
That was it. I wish no ill will towards this person. I did make mention of a crazy man in the story, which she took offense to. I’m honestly not in the habit of speaking badly about my customers. I think anyone that knows me or any other small town restauranteur will agree that our customers are precious to us. I’m making decades old family recipes for them, and I don’t take that lightly. My guests willingness and enthusiasm to receive those dishes gives me a very appreciated opportunity to continue to honor and love my family members that have since left this world. Say what you want about me, but that I most certainly do not take for granted. No, I wasn’t being flippant with insults. Sometimes we arrive at our opinions of people over time, and truthfully this particular person has said some offensive and inappropriate things to my female servers. That has put him on my radar. His interference in my conversation on Thursday had little to do with my assessment. I’m sad that his part in this story makes me look like a mean person. But, again, we have to responsible for what we say, and I did say that. I only get to be in charge of my words, I don’t get to take charge of those words once repeated on. And for that I’ll allow myself growth and peace. I know his actions have been inappropriate, but I also offered that description into the universe without explanation. That’s where I went wrong. I can only be disappointed in myself for leaving that door open.
Do I regret the Facebook post in general? This is a tough one. I didn’t want to hurt my customer’s feelings, though I sincerely doubt she ever cared about mine. But I’m not in charge of what she thinks. I honestly don’t agree with her, but we don’t all have to agree all the time to live in peace. I know she left mad, and I, well, I and a mutual friend, certainly provided her with some material to stay mad longer. That I regret. You could argue that I perpetuated this with the post. Ironically, though, my post was a way for me to get over it. A way to move forward without any leftover discomfort or hurt. And let’s not be so naive as to think she didn’t retell the story again elsewhere in her own attempts to process it and move on. Unfortunately for me, my hobby keeps my version of the events petrified until I press delete. And I could. I very easily could delete my post and delete her review. But I’ve chosen to leave it. Because if there is any lesson or value to come from this whole experience, for both of us, it’s erased as soon as I press that button. No, I’ll stand behind the words I can, and I’ll learn from the words I can’t. What she does is her own business. I don’t get a say, I can only hope. That’s all we can do, friends. Be hopeful, be honest, be brave, and also be realistic. Such is life. Sometimes you’re on the top of the mountain, and sometimes you’re picking a fly out of your teeth.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. It is my true belief that we make the world a better place and our experience in it richer if we share our experience together. I do that through food at my restaurant Smoking Mo’s in Shelton, Washington, and through my story telling here. I deeply thank you for joining me on this adventure, and for giving me the love and encouragement to keep moving forward.