While in my hometown recently, I settled for a fast food place when the restaurant I wanted wasn’t open. It was a favorite of my mother, who I was visiting at a convalescent home, and I thought it would make this meal a tribute of sorts. But I wasn’t prepared for what else was on the menu.
As I stood looking at the menu on the wall to find something I would want to eat, I overheard an exchange several feet away between a customer and the young woman behind the counter. The man, middle-aged with a long bushy beard, was complaining loudly. It concerned points he had accumulated and a burger with cheese and bacon he felt he was entitled to get. He wanted the problem fixed right then and there.
The woman behind the counter said he would need to speak with a manager who wasn’t available right then. But the man wouldn’t let it go. It was clear he thought he was being ripped off and was angry about it.
I realize this restaurant chain has its rules, but the common sense thing would have been to make amends with this unhappy customer by offering him something on the menu for free although that might not have satisfied him. But obviously the woman didn’t feel she could do anything like that on her own.
The exchange made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know this man and what he was capable of doing. I flashed on national events of recent weeks, in which acts of violence were committed in public places or on private property. Surely, you have read or heard about them.
I left the restaurant and stood outside. There’s no way I wanted to be a victim of this man’s rage. But I also didn’t want fear to rule my life.
So I went back inside.
The man was no longer at the counter. I spotted him eating in the far corner. I gave my order and when the wrap arrived, I found a seat on the opposite side. As I ate, the woman who worked behind the counter stopped after she had finished cleaning a table.
“How is your food?” she asked.
I told her it was good. Then I mentioned the exchange she had with the customer. She said she was waiting for the manager still.
I told her, “Considering what’s been happening, that made me a little nervous.”
Her face was serious as she nodded. “I know what you mean,” she said.
As I left, the man had finished his dinner and was back at the counter. I hope he and the manager were able to find a satisfying solution, a common ground. We surely need more of that these days.
ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: That’s one of three flowering bushes in our side yard we believe are azaleas.