Biff America: A fowled up evening (column)
“Are you telling me — after my family and I traveled eight hours to get to here, and then waited an hour to be seated — that you’re out of the duck?”
Even with my poor hearing the angry diner’s frustration was obvious from two tables away.
I was impressed with the server’s patience. She smiled and said, “Sir, I know how frustrating it can be to fly for hours and then have to drive in bad weather, just to get here, especially with a family. But yes we are out of the duck. But I guarantee you that I can suggest another dinner item that you will love and this meal will be a wonderful start to your vacation.”
What she DID NOT say was, “Sir, this is the end of my seven-hour shift and a five-month season where I’ve worked two jobs to be able to live in a town that is expensive and often cold and crowded. I have no control over how much duck is available. We have lots of great stuff on our menu left, just not any duck, so toughen up, Buttercup.”
It would be easy to dismiss the aforementioned exchange as an example of a person who had spent too much time in airports and not enough in charm school. But it is also reflective of life in a ski resort and symptomatic of a pervasive human condition: trying to place blame on an uncontrollable circumstance.
“Don’t take this personally,” is a phrase you’ll hear before or after someone says or does something that might be considered hurtful. They are asking you to consider the words or deeds not subjectively but with a detached objectivity.
What is not so easy to understand is when someone looks to lay blame purely because someone else is in proximity rather than attribute the situation to the vagaries of life, luck and scarcity of fowl.
And I don’t mean to use this column as a vehicle to bash the duckless-diner; we’ve all occasionally been guilty of blaming the messenger. It seems that a byproduct of an easeful society is an expectation of comfort and satisfaction. Many mistakenly assume their contentment is determined by a situation, not an attitude.
Some of the best life lessons I have learned were garnered from the years I was in the service industry. You see the best and worst of the human condition and learn quickly that cruel words and impatience are simply a reflection on those who offer them. I learned early it is harder to be a jerk than to wait on one. And I will say most of us can behave badly if placed in a perfect storm of frustration.
It’s a no-brainer to accept the happenstance of, say, lightning, but misfortune is much more difficult to fathom when a human element is involved. When someone drives aggressively, cuts me off, tailgates or double parks, I remind myself that he or she is not doing it to me, they are likely distracted, hurried or, perhaps, simply clueless.
“Why me?” It is easy to ask that question when faced with hardship. The more valid question might be “Why not me?” Much of life, love and happiness are random.
Notice I haven’t mentioned karma or divine intervention? Though I totally believe, in principle, with both those concepts, in actuality, the results are hit or miss at best. I haven’t seen enough divine intervention to be able to count on it, and if karma were foolproof, that ‘Pharma-bro’ who jacked up the price of lifesaving drugs would go to jail … WAIT A MINUTE … Martin Shkreli was sentenced to seven years.
Life is a crap-shoot: all luck and chaos. We will all — sooner, later or now — face real worries and concerns.
We will then wish our only complaints were those that, in the past, seemed so important. I was considering all of that while also counting my blessings for my health, a mate, friends who accept my peccadillos and for the gift of living in a place I love. All those gifts were made even sweeter as I cut into what turned out to be the final fowl on the menu………….
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or http://shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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