Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No Really, How Can't I Be of Service?

This is probably my favourite scene from just about any movie I've ever watched. In 1969, "Five Easy Pieces" was partially an attack against the rules of a dysfunctional society that was plundering its people into a violent conflict overseas, and a call to a young generation to stand up to the opressiveness of parents, professors, and the establishment, otherwise know as "The Man. In 2008, it looks more like a reality tv show. In the past few weeks, a number of friends and I have been astonished by the bad service we are experiencing in restaurants. In particular, staff who ignore people waiting patiently to order, waiters who act dismissively towards parents and their children, and dolts at front counter receptionist positions - lucky enough to have a job in my opinion - who feel the need to cross examine visitors as if they are B-movies actors in a legal thriller that isn't too thrilling.

Here are some examples: On Saturday, my wife, son and I, accompanied by two other couples and their children, went to the Pointe-A-Caillere museum to see an exhibit on the history of Halloween. A pile of propagandistic rubble at its best - the opening film on the history of Montreal paints a ridiculously rosy picture of aboriginal/French relations - the Museum features one restaurant on the top floor. Anxious for our children to eat, we walked the four flights only to be greeted by an obnoxious waiter who smugly told us that we had not stumbled upon a cafeteria. The other parents - respectable, humanitarian professorial types - were well above the comments that lowly me was prepared to make. I place my hand on the waiter's shoulder, and politely told him to have a good life, since he clearly had not had one up to this point. I left in triumph.

As luck would have it, it took only twenty-four hours to be ignored at a take out spot in my neighbourhood, where a father and son combination rudely pushed in front of me, and were served after I had been waiting for about ten minutes while the owner answered his phone. Frustrated, I swore angrily at the staff, slammed the menu on the table, stormed out, and closed the door with enough fury to lift customer's heads from their Pad Thai and Kung Pao chicken. I guess I will be placing phone orders with an ambiguous accent for the next little while. I reacted like a spoiled child, but I am quite frustrated with type of service that had poor Jack in such a rage two generations ago. People are worried about a lot of things these days - the economy being a major preoccupation. Still, with restaurant attendance dwindling, each customer should be seen as a valuable commodity not worth pissing off!

I managed to hold my temper yesterday, as I was dropping off an application for a job for my wife. The receptionist, possibly on some heavy medication I hope I am never prescribed, proceeded to lecture me on where I was (Where the hell are you lady, Mars?), but I politely told her that I was aware of the address and merely wanted to penetrate the fortress like barriers preventing me from seeing the Area Personnel Officer. Trust me, if they hired her, there isn't that much need for security. Christ, I sound like such as asshole right now, so maybe I had best move on with my day.

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