Emily Watkins is a professional Millennial (read: precariously employed twenty-something). Each week, she will answer a generation-specific query from the depths of her on-brand existential crisis. This week, our Aunt deals with someone who, though branded a friend, is unacceptably rude to waiters.
Please send any quandaries, issues, troubles or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org for a good dose of aunt-ing.
My friend is one of my favourite people but he’s always rude to uber drivers, waiters, shop assistants, and it makes my blood boil. Is it possible that he’s a good person despite this awful trait?! Is it worth intervening or do I have to bite my tongue?
Short answer – no, he’s a villain, and an irredeemable one at that. There’s a special circle of hell reserved for people who are rude to serving staff, and it sounds like your friend is headed there on a fast track. Longer answer – ok. Perhaps if we can delve into the psychology of this guy, we can locate a sliver of humanity worth saving? I’m game if you are.
Having taken a deep breath, there are a few reasons I imagine someone might be rude to service people – but when all is said and done, we’re dealing with an inferiority complex masquerading as a superiority one. At his core, and whether he knows it or not, your friend is worried about his status (like a disgraced earl in a bad period drama???) and it’s manifesting in his punching down at people who are contractually obliged to grin and bear it.
That’s my working theory, anyway, pieced together over years of cafe and restaurant work – of grinning and bearing it. And if I’m right, then deep down your awful pal is scared that one day the roles will be reversed – that his time as server, rather than served, is not as distant as he would like. For what it’s worth, that switcheroo would be his fastest (and maybe only) fix.
Forget national service (no really, please forget it) – I propose a mandatory period of at least six months when young adults have to hop behind a till of some kind. It could be retail or hospitality – as long as they’re dealing with the public, on their feet for hours at a time, and doing 20 things at once, my scheme will be a success.
There’s an idea that just because something is badly paid, it’s easy – minimum wage workers know all too well what nonsense that is (salaries are much more about how much society values something than how difficult it is to do) but people who’ve never been on the sharp end of that equation find it disturbingly easy to dismiss people who are. Your friend needs to put on an apron and do a double shift at a grimy bar before limping home at 2am, sharpish. That ought to dispel any illusions.
While the government rolls out my new scheme (Boris to beta test? You just need to look at him to know he’s awful to bar staff), you absolutely can intervene next time you see your friend being a nightmare – but let’s start with the victims before we tackle the offender. When you’re pinned behind a customer-service-rictus-grin, an apology and a smile goes a hell of long way in neutralising the poison of being treated like rubbish, so do what you can to show that at least you know that the person you’re talking to is a human rather than a maid-bot.
First-aid attended to, it’s time to call your friend out. While it might be hard to bite your tongue in the moment, this is a conversation best had in private, so he’s less defensive – and hey, if he’s as great as you say, then perhaps the scales will fall from his eyes and he’ll be reformed.
Perhaps he’s never thought about it, perhaps he’s brimming with anxiety, perhaps he’ll tip extra for the rest of his days to make up for years of idiocy. I fear that such horrors go soul deep, but I’m willing to be proven wrong – so let me know, won’t you? Follow up emails are highly encouraged.