SOLC 2018–Day 1: Think Before You Speak


March 2018 SOLC–Day 1
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“I gave it to you,” the man insisted to the bartender. His belligerent tone caught my ear, and I glanced over.

“No,” the bartender said, calmly,  “I ran your card through the machine and then gave it right back to you.”

“No. You. Did. Not.” he stated emphatically, his voice raising slightly with each word. He was older, well-dressed, and visibly irate.  The tension in the air was palpable. The few customers in the cafe shifted in line and glanced at each other uneasily.

He continued, spitting words like shrapnel, “You asked me if I wanted to start a tab and I didn’t want to give it to you but I did. I told you the card was cracked at the bottom and to be careful.”

The bartender looked around her as he spoke, lifting menus and other small items, double checking. “It’s not here,” she said again.

After a few more protests and angry complaints, the man retreated to his table at the far side of the room. His group began pushing back chairs and putting on their coats, apparently heading to the 7 pm documentary showing in the attached cinema. The rumble of his irritation buzzed audibly in the room and I imagined he was sharing his outrage with his dinner companions. There was a pause and then I heard a faint, more moderately toned, “Where did you find it?”

“I think he found his card,” I said to the bartender as I ordered my tea.

“That’s good,” she said. She didn’t even roll her eyes. Class act.

I wondered if the man would come over and apologize, though clearly he wasn’t in a rush to do so. After a few minutes passed, I realized I might have misconstrued what I’d heard. Perhaps he hadn’t found his card after all. He continued to talk with his companions. I paid and gathered my change and tea, and headed to my group’s table.

A few minutes later, I noticed the man was at the bar again, talking to the bartender.

“That’s ok,” I heard her say. “Not a problem.”

Once again, I admired her graciousness (and wondered if she was repeating “The customer is always right” in her head over and over). I also wondered what exactly the man was apologizing for. I suspect he was apologizing for insisting she had his card although she did not. From what I overheard, it sounded more like he was excusing his mistake, rather than really apologizing for his words or his behavior.  He clearly was not apologizing for how he spoke to her. Did he even recognize how rude he had been? How berating and aggressive his tone was?

There were two players in this scene—the bartender and the man. One problem—the missing card. They each chose how to respond. She clearly took the high road. He didn’t. Maybe he’d had a bad day. Maybe something else was going on. But, the bottom line is that he was far more concerned about his credit card and its potential loss and his emotional response to that than he was about how he chose to interact with another human being. In my book, that’s a huge problem. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s not ok to splash your emotional upset over others without any consideration. Especially over a missing credit card. It just doesn’t work that way. Or at least it shouldn’t.


21 thoughts on “SOLC 2018–Day 1: Think Before You Speak

  1. carwilc says:

    Phew! This is a powerful slice. I want to share this with my seventh graders. We talk every day about how we want to “be” in the world. Thank you for this powerful picture!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      How wonderful that you talk with your seventh graders each day about how you want to “be” in the world. I love that! Feel free to share this with them if you want to do so. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  2. cindaroo42 says:

    Wow great job setting the scene! When you wrote how others were shifting uncomfortably as they heard the conversation unfolding placed me right in the cafe with you! You captured that awkwardness with those words and the story made me cringe. A great reminder to think carefully about how you choose to react and how you present yourself to others.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ureadiread says:

    It was especially powerful how you implied that the outburst impacted not only the man and bartender, but those who witnessed it “shifting in line.” We can’t always control our circumstances, but only we can control our reactions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alice Nine says:

    Great crafting of your slice…. a great writing mentor text. The world will be better the more we all remember: “It’s not ok to splash your emotional upset over others without any consideration.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I worry that there is a lot of “emotional splashing” going on in our culture and that there’s a growing feeling that it’s ok and trumps civility.


      • Alice Nine says:

        I wonder if it is because there are so many hurting people. And something else I’ve noticed with some kids today is the “snotty” way they talk to each other, friend to friend. They say it doesn’t mean anything. And I think, Really?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. paulabourque says:

    This is such a visceral slice-it is hard to hear these interactions and not be filled with wonder about human nature. It evokes the question, “What would I do?” I believe that I would have the grace of the bartender, but as you also said, you don’t know if they had something else going on. I hope the man learned a valuable lesson from that server. Thanks for sharing such a great slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jcareyreads says:

    And through it all, I just kept picturing you, standing in the sidelines taking it all in. What a moment!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Leigh Anne Eck says:

    I believe that we are made by our reactions and not always our actions. This proves that point from both people!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A wonderful slice of reality Molly. I will hang on to your wisdom the next time I find myself in a frustrating exchange. Take the high road; it’s all about how one chooses to respond.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great slice, Molly. I was shifting uneasily in my seat, worried about what this man, “spitting words like shrapnel” was going to do next. I’m glad it all work out, and that the bartender maintained her dignity. I hope the man learned a lesson from her example.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Catherine. It’s amazing to me how upset people can become over somewhat minor things and how they feel free to take it out on the people around them.


  10. margaretsmn says:

    Don’t you just hate these kinds of scenes? Tense and full of emotion. The bartender is well adjusted to her difficult job of dealing with the public. There is a rule of life, “Don’t take it personally.” Tough to do, but necessary in keeping your sanity.


  11. Love this line “He continued, spitting words like shrapnel,…” The last two paragraphs offer such thoughtful analysis and insight into we humans. My go-to is “judge not,” but learn from this experience so to affect my behavior in similar situations. Love the essay.


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