Two women, two children and a toddler are in a small diner. All three kids are obviously tired and hungry and the two women are doing their best to entertain them and keep them happy. Finally, the food gets to the table and the mother of the toddler gives him some pancake and some bacon. After eating half of a pancake the size of the plate it came on, the toddler decides he is bored and proceeds to throw the pancakes on the floor around his high chair. His mother tells him no, he ignores her and he empties his high chair tray of pancake bits. The mother continues to eat so she can be done with her food and then pick up the pancakes before they leave.
As the mother is finishing her lunch, an older man walks up to their table and very loudly (so anyone in the small diner can hear with ease) says “That is the biggest mess I have ever seen a kid make. How could you let him make a mess that big? I wouldn’t ever go to your house and make a mess on the floor like that. That is ridiculous! I have never seen anything like that before.” And continues on in this very loud fashion for a good thirty seconds more, at least. Loud and extremely rude and very publicly. And a woman in an apron has appeared behind him and is emphatically nodding her head and smiling. She then proceeds to add, also loudly and rudely, “I’m not cleaning that mess up”.
Thinking for a moment at the beginning of the man’s tirade that he was joking, then realizing he was serious, the mother turns back to the woman at her table and tries to figure out why that customer was so awful to her .It was only like six pieces of pancake and a couple of bacon pieces. It wasn’t soup all over the floor or mashed potatoes and gravy thrown at the wall. It was pancake…with no syrup on it. She glances around the diner and sees the man behind the counter and with shocking clarity realizes that this was a man that worked there!
So I got up (probably figured out that it was me by now) and went over to the man and quietly explained to him that I was there for lunch with my kids and that there was no reason whatsoever that they should have had to witness him speaking to me like that. I told him that there was no call for him lecturing me in front of my kids. I also told him that from the beginning, I had fully intended to clean up the few bits of food. He then told me that it was the biggest mess that he had seen in 12 years that he had owned restaurants and that only two other people with kids that had made messes “not nearly as big as that one” had cleaned up after themselves. I repeated that I had always intended to (a quarter of a pancake is not that difficult to clean up) and I returned to my table. I paid my check, took the thirty seconds required to clean up those pieces and left. The pieces fit on ONE napkin.
It wasn’t the tone he used. It wasn’t what he said. It was both of those, combined with the fact that he was as public as he could have been and hadn’t even waited till I was done eating to see what I was going to do before he lashed out at me.In other dining establishments, as I have started to clean up food off the floor, I am stopped by the staff. I am told that that is what they are paid for. I am assured that it is ok. At the RAILROAD DINER IN LISBON FALLS, MAINE (yeah, I am subtle) I was accosted before I was even done eating.
I wish I had been thinking more clearly, because I could have responded to that woman (who apparently just came out of the kitchen to see him yell and add her two cents) when she said “I’m not cleaning that mess up” with “Well it is going to look pretty stupid at ten o clock tomorrow night if it is still there” But that is not me. As much as I wish I had said it, I know that I just don’t have it in me to be like that to a perfect stranger.
One of my friends said they would have paid the bill and right before she walked out, emptied every plate onto the table. She also said that she would have refused to pay after that. Another friend had no idea what she would have done but agreed that it was out of line. The woman I was there with was surprised that I went up and confronted the man. (I was too, even as it was happening, to be honest)
I am mad. I am hurt that someone could do that to another person in such a public way. I was shaking. I was wondering if that show “What would you do?” was in town. I was wondering if there were hidden cameras. And I am still trying to wrap my mind around the whole situation. Thank gods I am a writer.