Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why We Spit In Your Food

  One of the great tragedies of our modern culture is the decline of cooking and eating at home. While this decline has had wonderful results for the companies and individuals who operate the multi-billion dollar restaurant industry, the poor grunts who man the front lines are often abused, neglected, or treated like a sub-class of human. This, in turn, has led to a vast and varied amount of rumors and horror stories about the things that take place in the dark reaches of the restaurant that the customer is not allowed to see. Chief among these rumors is that, on occasion, a vengeful cook or server may take it upon themselves to add an ingredient to one’s food that appears nowhere on any menu. Sadly, spitting in food is a true and frequent reality of nearly every restaurant. Luckily, this reality can be avoided entirely simply by not exhibiting a specific set of character flaws. Read on, and take note, because if you have ever exhibited these traits in public, this is why we spit in your food.

 On any given day, you will have about a 50/50 chance at having a bad day. Sometimes, the bad day happens due to circumstances you can control but chose not to. Perhaps you hit snooze one too many times and were late to work. Maybe your water was shut off because you forgot to pay the bill. Often, circumstances beyond your control can cause your day to hit rock bottom. Was it bad traffic? Did a freak storm catch you without an umbrella? Whatever the case may be, if your day has gone so bad that you feel you have the right to take it out on another human being who, by the course of their job has no choice but to take it without retort, you should probably not go out to eat. You see, bad days are contagious. The fact that by the time you make it to your table and order drinks your host and server have probably already been infected does not bode well for you. Unless, of course, you enjoy saliva mixed in with your Caesar dressing.

  Of all the inventions thrust upon the mainstream of mankind, none have had such a drastic and detrimental effect on basic decency as the cellular phone. For some reason, having one of these devices next to one’s ear seems to inhibit a large percentage of the population from being able to recall the basic rules of etiquette and social interaction. I’m sure the conversation you are having is one that will result in curing cancer or solving the economic issues of several countries, but you could still have the common decency to pause for just a moment and use something other than your fingers to indicate how many people are in your party. Also, it wouldn’t kill you to, instead of gesturing vaguely at a menu with 40+ items, place your hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and speak to the actual human trying to take your order. Most of the people I have discussed this with would gladly support mandatory scrambling devices that cause a freakishly loud noise to emit from the headset of all active phones upon entering a restaurant thus rendering the rude bastard attached to it deaf for the better part of a week. Since this is still a long way off, victims of this behavior will instead resort to a well placed glob of phlegm beneath the Swiss cheese of your French Onion soup.
  While we’re on the subject of rudeness, if ever in your entire life you have answered the question “How are you doing today?” with “Diet Coke,” you can rest assured that you have ingested copious amounts of premeditated drool. Honestly, where else but a restaurant can this happen? If you see an acquaintance on the street and they ask how you are, answering in the form of a beverage will, at best, award you with a strange look. In some cities, this behavior can result in bodily harm and a trip to the dentist. Frankly speaking, whether you were hospitalized for doing this or merely the unassuming victim of saliva poisoning, you had it coming.

 When I was a child, my parents hammered into my still developing mind a simple and basic rule of dining: If it’s on your plate, be thankful and eat it. Maybe I was the only child in the history of the world who was taught this. Maybe you were also taught this, and in some depraved quest for rebellion or anarchy you decided to not only break this rule, but to order the one thing on the menu that is made mostly of things you don’t like to eat. You then proceed to modify the order so much that it no longer comes close to resembling anything on the menu and the cook has to spend fifteen minutes deciphering instructions so exact that he has flashbacks to his last job doing bomb disposal. On the other hand, you could wait until the item is brought to you and then decide to inform your server that you forgot to mention your severe allergies to swine when ordering the bacon and ham stuffed pork chop. Make no mistake, in both cases you will be served up a side of tonsil lube.

 By this point, you might be thinking that this whole thing is pretty one sided. Your mind is probably thinking back to those times when you didn’t break any of these rules and yet, as so often happens, your dining experience was hampered by the ineptitude of an employee. Your food was prepared wrong, your steak was overcooked, you didn’t get your appetizer and the soup was cold. Should you fear the retaliation of the people involved with this mishap by voicing your complaint? Absolutely not. As long as you remain civil and rational, the servers and cooks will do their best to remedy the situation. However, should you lash out at the young lady who brought you your overcooked steak and make comments about her upbringing, social standing, education level or possible alternative occupations with words that would make a sailor blush; you should be aware that she didn’t cook your steak. Her boyfriend did, though, and as soon as he sees her tear streaked face while she tries to write the re-cook ticket for the steak he’s about to throw on the grill… Well, I think you see where this is going.

  I hope this has helped to shed some light on how your behavior as a human being can determine how well you eat when dining out. If some of this is a little convicting, you should consider going to every restaurant you frequent and humbly apologizing to the staff. You might even apologize to your friends who dine with you as they may have been victims themselves simply for being with you. One last thing: If you are in the habit of using one of those automatic tip calculators, you should know that someone, somewhere, will be spitting in your food.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Calming the Storm has been a long time since I posted anything here. Life has been pretty hectic for a while now, but that is hardly an excuse. I think my absence from this blog has been largely due to the fact that I have been in a maelstrom the past year and have hardly been able to gather my thoughts, much less write them out. On the other hand, the winds and waves that life has sent my way have given me a new and profound perspective on how God has been at work in my life.
From an outsider's view, I have pretty much hit the bottom. I have been unemployed for the better part of 16 months, my job searches have proven fruitless, and every venture I set myself to seems to yield nothing but wasted time and effort. From a worldly perspective, I am a failure.
While my friends and family are supportive and loving, there seems to be an undercurrent of pity, and in some cases, down right scorn. I understand these sentiments, because in the past I have felt the same way about others. Self-righteousness and pride have often blinded me to the truth of this world, the fight we are in, and my own role in that battle. I have come to the conclusion that these are the very things that God has been exposing in me, and through that exposure, cleansing me of.
As I said, I have been in a storm of epic proportions. Simple things, like paying bills and providing food and shelter for my family, have taken on a level of difficulty that I would never have believed possible a few years ago. There have been many times over the past year and a half that I have wondered how I would make it, and if I even really cared if I did. The storm has been dark, and it has stripped me of everything that I used to depend on or stake my identity on.
That, I think, is exactly what God had in mind.
In Matthew chapter 8, there is a short snippet of a story in which Jesus and the disciples have taken to the open sea only to encounter a tremendous storm. While the passage doesn't include a whole lot of details, by looking at the characters involved you can flesh out quite a bit of the story. Many of the disciples were fishermen. They had grown up on the sea and in boats, and surely had faced a few storms. I imagine that they reacted as fishermen would, to this storm, bailing water, fastening lines and sails,basically doing everything in their power to survive. When all hope is lost, they turn in panic to Jesus.
I can relate to this story. I have been working since I was 13 years old, always depending on my own abilities and intelligence to make it. Jobs seemed to come easy, and through hard work and determination, I excelled at whatever I did. God rarely, if ever, entered the picture. Until I got fired. Then, the next job I took ended suddenly when the owners closed the doors to their restaurant.
I felt my world crumbling around me. My confidence was shattered. The abilities and experience that I had relied on for so long were now empty and useless. Opportunity after opportunity slipped through my fingers and I began to feel isolated. Alone. Hopeless.
Like the disciples, it wasn't until all hope seemed lost that I turned to Jesus for help. As in their story, Jesus proved that no storm is beyond His control. As in their story, He also made it clear to me that he was with me in the boat the entire time. As He rebuked my storm, He showed me all the ways that he had sheltered me from it. The provision that He had given. The grace that He had shown. Like the disciples, I felt foolish for my doubts.
He also reminded me of another story. In this story, the disciples are once again on the open sea and facing the wind and waves. This time, Jesus had sent them ahead, and in obedience, they were facing danger. In my story, my desire to walk in obedience has me, once again, facing a storm. In their story, Jesus comes to them; walking on water, rebuking their fear. My story is much the same. I see Christ is present in the storm. Like Peter, I am attempting to defy all logic and reason and walk on water toward my Savior. Thanks to the telling of this story, I understand That as long as I keep my eyes on Him and ignore the storm raging around me, I will be fine. I have assurance that he can, and will, calm this storm as well...
...and something great is going to happen.