Tonight, was one of those popcorn and banana muffin dinners I have very infrequently, but still more often than I care to admit. I didn't feel like cooking. It was daunting just trying to come up with a meal, and getting the can opener to work, required more effort than I could spare. Sitting in front of the television I tried to detach myself from “the burden of my consciousness” (Mamet’s words, not mine) by watching the latest version of Cinderella which isn’t half as daring as it could be. Just once I’d like to see a slightly chubby, somewhat plain Cinderella. Someone brilliant, and loving, who wins over the Prince with humour and wit. In my Cinderella, the step-sisters are the beautiful ones; beautiful but vapid who make no impression whatsoever. A real Bizarro World Cinderella that brings home the true message of what it means to love someone for who they are even when they don’t look like a model. Let’s face it, every Cinderella is beautiful, which is precisely why I never worry about her. This servitude she’s experiencing is temporary. Beautiful people seem to have happy endings. But a plain Cinderella who is forced to make her way in a Covid world? That would be so much more interesting. That was the head space I was in as I finished my main course and contemplated eating half a peach pie. I was still reeling over the events from my day.
It all started when I was walking the dog this morning, I couldn't help notice cyclists on the sidewalks, pedestrians walking on the road, and cars parked on the bike path. At the gas station, I had to wait a good twenty minutes while the woman in front of me cashed in all her lottery winnings and then proceeded to pick, scratch, and pay for a new assortment of chances at a million. Then again, who can blame her? I'd probably buy a lottery ticket, too, if I could afford it.
The afternoon started slipping away from me when the woman in the Shopper's Drug Mart told me to get a life because I politely (I was ever so polite) asked her if she would take a few steps back while I paid for my vitamin B12 at the cash register. It wasn't just that she wouldn't adhere to the Covid-19 distancing protocols, but rather that while sidling up beside me with the latest edition of People and a large bottle of aspirin, she coughed. Double vaccinated or not; I wasn't excited about being the host to a multitude of germs from a complete stranger.
"Get a life!" she snarled, which prompted me to say, "Well, if you don't think you need to distance, then why are you wearing a mask?"
"Shut up," she snapped and continued to repeat this until the cashier finally said, "Enough!"
I know I'm not the only person who has noticed increased hostility in people over the past year. There's a sign at the hardware store asking patrons to be respectful of employees. At the restaurant where my husband works, at least once a day, someone threatens to have him fired from his minimum wage job when a table isn't available for them to eat their $20.00 hamburger at.
"They are so apoplectic their heads nearly fall off," he tells me when he finally crawls home exhausted from eight hours of demanding bridezillas and entitled rich people of every shape, size and colour. By the way, who has $20 for a hamburger and $18 for a glass of wine? Obviously, everyone didn't suffer from losing their jobs during this pandemic.
I wonder, what my Cinderella would do if she were forced to work in a restaurant where she’d have to serve, not a step-mother and two step-sisters, but a whole slew of demanding strangers eight hours a day for six days a week? Entitled men and women who’ve been given the opportunity to review everything you do. Nothing seems to please people more these days than the chance to give their opinion about food and customer service. Patrons who I'm pretty sure have never had to deal with the general public or worked in the food preparation business seem, nevertheless, to think they are experts on how to manage things.
Here is a sample of complaints from patrons. I call this portion of my blog:
Reviewing the Review
"This was the WORST experience of my life!"
Now I don't know the details of these people's lives, but my parent's separation was one of the worst experiences of my life, so I'm thinking if a bad hamburger ranks up there as something tragic, you probably haven't left your house in twenty years.
"I went to this restaurant for a birthday dinner, and my expectations were dashed when a fruit fly landed in my Chardonnay."
First of all, EVERYONE has a birthday. Look around you? Probably at least five other tables around you are celebrating something. Get over yourself. Having a birthday does not entitle you to anything. And the restaurant is an outdoor patio, where insects live. You should know this because you are a human being who goes outside. Duh!
"The main dining room was full, so I was FORCED to eat outside."
Obviously, this patron has never heard of making a reservation. A reservation is to guarantee you a table. If you go to a restaurant without a reservation but still expect to get a table, you're either a moron or - say it with me - Entitled.
And you were forced? Like the waiters grabbed you, tied you down and stuck a tube down your throat like the suffragists of old?
“We sat outside and got wet when it rained because the host wouldn’t let us stand under the covered pavilion.”
That’s right, you and thirteen of your closest friends were not allowed under the pavilion NOT because the host hates you, but because of social distancing. Also, maybe…just maybe you might want to check a weather report before deciding to eat outside. Usually when I see dark clouds and hear that there’s an 80% chance of thunder storms, I don’t venture outside
"We wanted coffee and dessert and were told we couldn't have them… We are quiet, mild-mannered retirees with money to spend, but obviously they didn't want it."
To begin with, it's a winery dumbass. Next time you go to Starbucks, ask them for a cheeseboard and a bottle of wine and when they don't give it to you, complain. Secondly, who cares if you are retired and have money? Good for you. Next.
See, I'm beginning to think that one of the biggest problems we are facing right now isn't sexism, racism, or a general dislike for the LGBTQ2+ community. It's classism. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's good old-fashioned haves and have nots. Because otherwise, I cannot understand why someone would dare to comment on having money as the reason they should be treated any differently than someone else.
Then there are the complaints about being asked to distance, wear masks, wait to be seated - all Covid-19 protocols, not attacks aimed primarily at one person in particular. Sometimes, you just have to say, "No." No, you can't just sit anywhere as tables need sanitizing. No, you don't get special treatment because you live in town. No, your children can't run around the restaurant unmasked. No, you can't seat your family of 12 at a table for 4. I know that some people like to believe that they are, to the manner born, but when you leave your mansion, you become just another person who wants food and drink.
At this point, my Cinderella would have probably thrown in the towel. She’d try…she really would, to be nice, but when forced to cater the ball instead of attending it, she’d probably lose her composure.
At one time, people were throwing around Zombie Apocalypse to describe this epidemic, and I admit that there have been times when I wonder if Covid -19 hasn't driven us all a little mad. I find it disheartening that we actually have to ask people to be considerate, polite, and respectful. And look, I'm not perfect. At certain times, I have lost my cool, but I would never try to get someone fired from a minimum wage job because they didn't treat me with due reverence.
I read in the paper about the Great Resignation. In April in the United States, 4 million people left their jobs. In June, 3.5 million more. It doesn't surprise me. We've all had a bit of a shake-up. Someone coughing on you in line at the Shoppers Drug Mart could end your life, and the last thing you want entering the pearly gates is having just served a total jerk who only tipped you 10% after making you do their bidding for the better part of an afternoon. I have news for wealthy patrons; you'd better start treating the staff at places like restaurants with a bit of respect because there are not enough employees to go around, and the ones who are listening to your tantrums aren't going to take it any longer. You just might have to learn to live with the massive disappointment of not getting the table you want.
When I was a kid, working in the theatre was all I wanted to do, and frankly, I was good at it. I'm sure my parents had reservations (for restaurants and my chosen career path), but being a girl, they probably thought that if I failed, I'd have a husband to fall back on. But I wasn't built that way. When I had a man in my life to fall back on, I usually did everything in my power to sabotage the relationship so that I could prove how capable I was on my own. I pretty much did every job possible to succeed in theatre. I've run two companies, one commercial and one not-for-profit. I've been sexually harassed and sexually discriminated against, but somehow, I still carved out a career. So, it's more than a little disheartening at this particular juncture to find out that I'm in a holding pattern waiting to find out if my play (which was one week from being announced at a major Canadian theatre company) will now ever get produced, and if I'll ever direct again. It really does feel at times like I'm in an airplane circling on high waiting for permission to land before I run out of fuel. In the meantime, I'm working with kids, and most of the time, no matter how talented they are, I want to warn them that a life in the theatre is entirely unpredictable. Not to mention the fact that of those 7.5 million people who voluntarily left their jobs between April and June, probably not one of them was in the arts.
In Bizarro World society is ruled by the code which states, "Us do opposite of all Earthy things." So maybe it all makes sense after all. Still, I’m waiting for someone to do my version of Cinderella. One that really speaks to those of us out there who feel like we might have fallen through the cracks and have landed in an alternate reality where bikes ride on the sidewalks, pedestrians walk on the road, and cars park on the bike path.