Restaurant Patrons Who Will Burn in Hell

Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum

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By David Hammond

I must have hit a nerve with my blog last week about the small things restaurants might do to make me less grumpy in 2013. That posting brought out a number of productive insights as well as the usual borderline psychotic babble, all of which are welcome. Hey, it's Oak Park. From one tree, many nuts. We're nothing if not inclusive.

In the spirit of justice and fair-mindedness, one must admit the restaurant experience is the result of actions by restaurant management/staff as well as customers, the other critical component in the dining equation. Some of these customers, no doubt, will face heat in the hereafter.

There's perhaps no way I can expect that customers will universally change their ways to suit my tastes, no matter how eminently reasonable and sane those tastes may be. Consequently, instead of a plea that they modify their behavior, I simply condemn the following savages to a fiery eternity.

  • Cell phone users. I believe most readers will be with me on this one. I sat in a burger joint last week as a self-absorbed nitwit with an iPhone chatted at full volume with someone about her lawn. Between directives about which plants to water and which lawn to mow, she reiterated, quite audibly, several times, "Oh, I love you." She may have been talking to her gardener but it seemed, eerily, that she was intentionally making me listen to this intimate conversation – for reasons of exhibitionism or sociopathic hostility – and this brainless chatter went on for the entire term of my meal. Inexcusable. Burn, baby, burn.
  • Scammers. We've all heard the two-line joke: "Q: Waiter, what's this fly doing in my soup? A: The backstroke." Many times, though, the customer may know very well how the fly got in the soup: he put it there. Even at fancier restaurants, like Chicago's mk (868 Franklin), customers plant foreign bodies on their plates in hopes of getting free dinners. Chef Erick Williams told me that it happens all the time: customers finish dinner and then "discover" a hair on their table, hoping to get comped for their meal. Sometimes this sleazy stratagem works, but I don't know how these patrons can live with themselves. They too are consigned to a very deep ring of the inferno.
  • Finger-lickers. Finger lickers are perhaps the most aesthetically offensive of all eaters. You need to burp after dinner? Fine, it's natural. Have to fart? There's no stopping Mother Nature. But nothing compels you to thrust greasy digits into your mouth to lick them clean between bites. When you do that, and then touch a salt shaker or ketchup bottle or door handle, your spit is transferred to my hands and the hands of all other civilized people. Revolting. Your simian ways have earned you eternal fire.
  • Stingy tippers. When people "forget" to tip or leave just a few bucks on a big bill, it's highly probable that servers will become angry. When servers are angry, they give everyone, including me, bad service…and that makes me grumpy. In some countries, tipping is optional or even non-existent – but in those countries, servers are frequently paid a living wage. In the U.S., restaurant owners routinely underpay servers because they figure gratuities will make up the difference.  Fair, unfair, who knows (?), that's the way it is, and it's sure not the servers' fault. They're just trying to make a living by cow-towing to cell-phone talkers, finger-lickers. lousy tippers and other hell-bent customers, so cough it up, Scrooge. Incidentally, 20% is the new 15%, but if you've been tipping less all your life, you might consider throwing in 30% or more for the rest of your miserable existence. Maybe you'll buy your cheap ass a little less time in flaming forever.

Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum

Merry Christmas!


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Posted: December 17th, 2012 12:51 PM

Actually I did mean "compensation" to highlight that the tip is merely a financial incentive. Exercising my discretion over the tip amount in the negative direction doesn't make me feel any better at all, it just means I have a few more dollars in my wallet. I'd much rather leave the money on the table in exchange for friendly, respectful, and efficient service.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 14th, 2012 1:57 PM

Orpheus, eating with fingers is something I'm getting used to, but in those Asian and African cultures where it's customary -- and where I've eaten with fingers -- they take precautions. In Morocco, for instance, if you eat with right hand (the norm), then you touch other non-edible elements (door knobs, serving utensils, salt shakers, for instance) with the left hand, thus avoiding some contamination. And then there are finger bowls for washing up. But you're right, there is a lot of finger licking that goes on, alas, everywhere. (PS. I think you mean "consolation" not "compensation"). I appreciate the exchange -- thanks.


Posted: December 14th, 2012 1:39 PM

Waitstaff ups the grumpiness stakes at their own (and their employer's) risk. Bad service makes me grumpy too, but I have the compensation of leaving with a few more bucks in my pocket, never to return. And finger licking? Well that goes with eating with your fingers which is the norm for much of the world. I've sat down to utensil-free meals in India, Indonesia, and Africa and I assure you my companions were emminently human. PS: If you are spit-averse, keep an eye on those grumpy waiters.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 9:37 PM

Orpheus, not saying that servers will or should consciously base service on previous tips, just that bad tips make them grumpy, leading to more bad service, specifically to innocents like me. You're okay with licking fingers? To which species do you belong?


Posted: December 13th, 2012 2:59 PM

The only ones I can agree with are phone folks and of course scammers. If resentful waitstaff makes their service contingent on the previous tip not the forthcoming one, they probably don't deserve much of a tip in the first place. Only exceptional service gets 20%. Presumptuous waitstaff like the one in NYC who wrote and circled "20%" on the check (perhaps because we were speaking a foreign language at the table) get 10%.

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