“Last night, I ordered curbside pickup. Saturday night. Not a great idea but I now often forget what day it is. I ordered online and drove to the restaurant. My pick-up time was 6:45 p.m. There was a sign outside with the phone number to call for online orders. I called 3 times. The last time letting it ring for 5 minutes. I grabbed my mask and got out of the car to run in and see about the order. A couple with no masks was outside with their dog waiting to pick up curbside. I told them I would check on their order too. No problem, pandemic.
When I walk in, the restaurant is in chaos. It’s a big place with indoor and outdoor dining. It was a lovely, popular restaurant long before they offered curbside service. Seven people are working the host stand (all under 25 years old). They are literally running around. The phone is ringing. There is nobody to answer it. The staff is calm, focused, and overwhelmed. Someone asked me what order I needed. I said, ‘Fortner. Also, Schneider is outside.’ A young kid next to me quietly said, ‘Miller.’ So, I say, ‘Fortner, Schneider, Miller.’
While I wait, I witness the worst in people. A handsome couple with no masks (to be fair, hers was hanging off a Prada handbag) is livid because there are no walk-ins. To apologize to her, he presses her up against the hallway to make out for 12 seconds before they leave. Another family who made a reservation wants to add 2 more people. It’s not allowed. They are furious. ‘It’s for a birthday!’ they say. They plead their case. The young woman behind the iPad says politely, ‘I’m so sorry. We have rules we must follow, and we cannot have 8 people at the same table, and we don’t even have the capacity for 2 extra at this time slot.’
Two women walk up to the host stand and say they want to have one drink at the bar and then have dinner. They don’t understand that it would be two different reservations. The young woman behind the host stand patiently explains due to social distancing and capacity, they are limited in their ability to move people around inside the restaurant without reservations. The women stomp away (seem a bit drunk) and say they will take their business elsewhere. I think…not. Not at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday they won’t. People are mad they can’t sit outside, but they made indoor reservations. But it’s nice outside now and they don’t want to eat inside. They blame the host.
People are mad that the next available reservation for a party of 4 is at 10:00 p.m. People are disgusted they have to put on a mask to just walk to their table. Loud sighs and eye rolls. Schneider food is delivered outside. Miller gets his and thanks me. The manager comes over and says, ‘I’m so sorry. We sent your order with someone else and we don’t even know who.’ I tell him, ‘I understand. No problem. It’s a crazy night.’ He breaths a sigh of relief. He puts the order in again. The servers are sweating going in and out of the restaurant wearing their uniform and a heavy mask. The KIDS running the host stand are sprinting outside in heels with takeout orders. The phone continues to ring.
The family comes back in with their party of 6 (I don’t know where their extra 2 people went) and sullenly goes to their birthday party, one of the kids is crying. Four women come in who have a reservation. They dislike how busy it is. One of them says, ‘This is the first time I’ve been out in 5 months; this is insane. It’s too crowded.’ My food arrives. He apologizes again and added a free dessert. I told him it was not necessary, but I would cheerfully eat it.
I honestly can’t believe the rage. Let me just limit this to restaurant rage and these are all people who have the luxury of eating in a restaurant on a perfect 72-degree summer night. I can’t believe anyone thinks they are above the rules. I’m ashamed of all of us. I can’t believe people don’t get that if the restaurant does not follow rules, they close the doors. There are no roasted Brussel Sprouts in Asian vinaigrette with Fresno peppers without customers adhering to rules. There have always been guidelines in restaurants. The restaurant serves fresh food. They wash the glasses. They bring it to the table. They try to accommodate people with food allergies. Patrons wear shoes and pay. That’s the deal. That is the social contract. The mask and reservations are just an added layer temporarily.
They have always had capacity limits and now they are just different. And they have provided the additional bonus, if you want to eat your pan-seared sea bass at home in your pajamas with no mask, you can pick it up in your pajamas. If eating outside at 7 p.m. is your top priority in life, they have already developed a brilliant system where they HOLD that table for you when you call ahead. Do we have so much freedom in this country that we now think it means we should be able to do anything we want all the time? And if we can’t, we reserve the right to whine. I’ve followed so many threads on school re-openings. The most frequently used word by parents is ‘deserve.’ Deserve. Deserve. Deserve. Americans are very much in love with what we deserve. Nobody deserves a spot at a restaurant table if they haven’t followed the rules. What about the OTHER people? Do they deserve anything? The servers? The hosts? The bartender? The bussing staff? The other customers?
And this is happening everywhere in the US and not only in restaurants. A cross-section of the population. Not just the Midwest. Not just the wealthy. Not one political party or the other. Not just at Walmart. But I do think it is a uniquely American attitude. It’s embarrassing. We are toddlers who are only satisfied if we have what we want, but we get to call it a need. There is a reason for the term, ‘Ugly American.’ It usually refers to those abroad wanting the world to conform to their worldview. But now it’s here everywhere. On our own soil. It’s not surprising that no other country wants us there right now. We are glass half full people who find ways to complain about our half-full glass.
And here is my $18 Mud Pie apology. So, so nice. I promise I won’t ever come to regard it as my constitutional right.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jennifer Fortner. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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