This I Believe

Benjamin - Webster, New York
Entered on March 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: golden rule

I used to be a “Picky Eater.” My Parents branded me with this title at about the age of five, when I developed an affinity for three foods: Grilled Cheese sandwiches, Chocolate Milk, and, to a lesser extent, Macaroni and Cheese. I guess that “affinity” isn’t the right word; it was more of an addiction. I had to have them. If I couldn’t get them, classic withdrawal symptoms (by which I mean screaming, whining and other tantrum-related “symptoms”) began to surface.

Since my period as a terror to eat out with, I have had friends, family and even just acquaintances share stories about what waiters and chefs do the orders of obnoxious patrons. This fresh information is probably what leads me to return to this incident at this, much later, date.

My family used to frequent the great state of Florida, primarily to visit the independent nation of Disney World. On a particular night, we ventured out of our timeshare and into the community’s restaurant. The place was pretty nice; it bore a striking resemblance to a country club. Once our waiter appeared, I was proud to lay down my order. “I’ll have Grilled Cheese and Chocolate Milk.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t have chocolate milk,” our waiter responded politely. I wasn’t used to being denied my typical combination. I don’t remember the ensuing back-and-forth, but it must have been noticeable as another man soon appeared. His accent had rather thick Indian undertones.

“What’s wrong here?” the manager asked. His proudly displayed nametag identified him as “Dino,” and also informed us that he was a manager.

My father wasn’t exactly excited about the situation I had put him into. “He wants Chocolate Milk.” He made an active effort to neither make eye contact with me, nor mention my name. That’s just how he handles behavior without condoning it.

Dino then turned to the waiter. He asked “why don’t you just go get him Chocolate Milk?”

“We don’t have chocolate milk.” If his eyes emitted any sort of heat, he was angry enough to burn a hole through me with just a look.

“That’s ridiculous,” Dino responded. “Go make him some Chocolate Milk.” The waiter didn’t move. He was clearly having an ethical dilemma with giving in to a six-year-old’s demands.

“We don’t make Chocolate Milk.”

Dino responded with a cheer usually reserved for department store Santa Claus’s on amphetamines. He directed the waiter off to the kitchen: “How you make Chocolate Milk? You put milk and chocolate together.”

I did, in fact, get a cup of Chocolate Milk that night. For a long time, I viewed this incident as a win; I viewed it as a victory over the service industry. I am now more aware of what my actions really were: breaking my waiter’s spirit. Rather than a sentiment about our grand equality under God’s eyes, but I offer a more practical lesson here. Don’t argue or fight with your waiter, because they are going to have an opportunity to be alone with your meal. You can never really tell what they are going to put into your food, so take a pre-emptive defense. I’m not sure if my waiter did anything to my order that night, but I believe that you should be nice to your waiter. I believe that winning a superficial battle isn’t worth risking what your beaten down, broken spirited waiter can do to your food.