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.