Rules Is Rules

By Rogan Smith |
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Rogan in a restaurant

When it comes to food, I’m a sucker for punishment, and sometimes, I bring others down with me.

Three years ago, my friend Devano and I went to a popular eatery for lunch. This place is known for its cafeteria-style, home cooked meals and to be honest, the food is just delicious. We had gone there for months and it hadn’t disappointed, so it became our go-to place.

The specials allowed for one meat, rice and two sides. As the food was being taken up, Devano asked for a separate order of macaroni. The server, who was taking up the meat, seemed puzzled by the request. He slowly peeled his eyes off of the lamb, squinted at Devano and said, “that’s not allowed.” Devano and I, completely taken aback, turned to each other in disbelief and burst out laughing. We thought he was kidding. He was not. When we realized he was serious, we got serious. So, I asked him why we couldn’t have an separate order if we were willing to pay for it. The man replied, “we don’t do that.” To which I replied, “You don’t sell macaroni separately? That doesn’t make sense.”

Out of thin air a woman with a snagged hairnet manifested. I swear. To this day, we don’t know where she came from. She’s like a cafeteria genie who appears whenever macaroni-craving customers challenge the system. And she was scary.

“Yes, it makes sense,” she fired back. “That’s the rules! Rules is rules. Even the church gat rules.” Devano and I are rarely at a loss for words and between the two of us, we usually have some witty comeback. But, this magical creature caught us off guard. I couldn’t pay fast enough. As I zipped up my wallet and looked up a final time to give the woman a dirty look, she was gone. Poof! Never to be seen again.

As we walked out of the restaurant with our tails between our legs and no extra macaroni in our Styrofoam containers, we vowed never to return to that restaurant. And we meant it. The anger sustained me for two weeks. But, then I found myself struggling. I started suffering from withdrawals. The food was that good. There were times I’d pass by the restaurant and slow down, tempted to stop. But, every time I did, I would envision the cafeteria genie mysteriously appearing out of thin air with her snagged hairnet. Then, I’d hit the gas pedal.

That all changed this year when, overcome by weakness, I returned for food. The place was just as I remembered it. The food was even more beautiful. The genie wasn’t there. When I got my receipt, I thought it would be funny to take a photo and WhatsApp it to Devano. After all, it had been three years. I just knew he’d be over it. Instead, I got the following text. (Restaurant’s name has been changed):

Vano: You went to Cat’s? (Angry face, angry face, angry face).

Me: ….Yeah.

Vano: We don’t go to Cat’s.

Me: Yeah, but, Vano. It’s been three years!!!

Vano: I don’t care if it was 100 years! We don’t $*%# with Cat’s!!!!

We didn’t speak for days.

Locked In Rigidity

Restaurants have rules. I get it. They have to. That’s how the machinery works and it keeps things in order. However, sometimes restaurants have a tendency to get locked in rigidity to the point that they do their customers a disservice.

Management, concerned with having a competent workforce, teaches workers to serve, but rarely enables them to think critically. Employees are oftentimes reprimanded if they deviate from the script. It is incumbent upon the workers, however, to not only put themselves in the customer’s shoes, but to respectfully challenge their bosses if something doesn’t make sense or if it will potentially cause a problem with the customer.

For example, I happen to love Dairy Queen. Absolutely love it. I probably eat it more than I should. But, there’s one thing I do not like, and that’s when the server turns my Blizzard upside down. It’s a gravity-defying exercise that the company performs to demonstrate the thickness of its candy-filled shake. But, because I’m a weirdo, it bothers me. A lot.

Every time I go to Dairy Queen, I plead with the servers not to turn my Blizzard upside down. I tell them I won’t report them to management, I don’t expect a free Blizzard if they don’t turn it upside down. I just don’t want it turned upside down. I once told a server that if she turned it upside down, I would ask for a refund. She assured me repeatedly she wouldn’t. But, when she returned to register, she went on autopilot. I got my money back.

Judge me all you want, it’s ok. I don’t want my ice cream turned upside down any more than I want my pizza, conch salad or soup turned upside down. I’m a weirdo, I know. But, I’m a weirdo that doesn’t want tricks performed on my food.

Now, when the DQ servers see me coming, I see the staff scurrying to warn the newbies not to turn the crazy woman’s Blizzard upside down.

I thank them for respecting my wishes. Good thing that cafeteria genie ain’t on the DQ payroll.

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