Monday, November 05, 2012

Doormat McGee

Doormat McGee

Like probably everyone, I like to think of myself as a strong, confident person. But lately I've been reminded of my somewhat pathological aversion to confrontation, and it's making me think Serious Thoughts. A lot of it is the typical fear of confronting someone and having them behave even worse as a result, which is why many shitty, shitty neighbors of ours got away with a lot of shitty shit when we lived in apartments. I never stand up to people who cut in line at or crowd me in public even though such behavior makes me unreasonably angry and causes me to engage in revenge fantasies. The dumbest thing, though (probably), is how I never complain at restaurants even when something is clearly not right.

Now, MB and I do go out of our way to be polite and easygoing when we eat out, because Lord knows it's not easy being a server and a lot of people are entitled assholes. Unless the server is blatantly ignoring us, we tend to just go with the flow. And I hate to complain about anything that is wrong about my order, lest we seem high maintenance or pushy. Most of the time it's no big deal, like if the dressing is on the salad instead of on the side. But just in the past few days, there have been two incidents that I'm mulling over and pondering.

We went out with my coworkers last Thursday night to what I'd consider a place in the upper-range of not-fancy but nice. It was a chain, but it's someplace more expensive than MB and I would usually go for a casual dinner. I decided to splurge a bit and order salmon even though it was pricey, and then got a piece of fish that was seriously undercooked. The girl sitting next to me even told me to send it back, but I just kept justifying it by telling myself maybe that's just how they cook it there and I'm too unsophisticated to know the difference. Meanwhile, I'm picking at a meal that cost more than I wanted to spend but now I don't want to eat because it's a little gross and plus I'm not sure I'm supposed to eat undercooked fish right now. All because I don't want to cause a fuss. The hell, self? I'm still stewing over it a bit today, not in a pissed-off way but in a why didn't I just say something way. I didn't want to make the server feel bad, and I didn't want it to be a big deal…I wouldn't have wanted to see the manager or anything. But I totally should've asked for something else instead. I am still annoyed that I paid money for something that was basically inedible.

Then Sunday morning we took Nico out to breakfast and I ordered him a yogurt. The server brought him a fancy yogurt parfait thing instead with bits of granola and chunks of fruit in it. Which, okay, looked awesome, but was (1) not what I ordered and (2) not something Nico would ever agree to eat. I started to scrape the granola off and made an attempt to get him to eat a bit (which wasn't happening since he'd seen that there was STUFF in his yogurt), and then I thought about the salmon. I thought about how lame I still felt about that and how stupid it was to suffer silently for a mistake that could've been corrected. I asked politely if they had plain yogurt instead, and the server was very nice about it and brought Nico a new bowl. And that was it. No drama, nothing. Now everyone reading this is probably thinking "Duh, that's how it goes," but I was absurdly relieved.

Overall, of course, it's no big deal. So I acted in a doormatty fashion and had a crappy dinner experience…so what? But it makes me worry a bit overall, because I want to raise my kids to stand up for themselves. Not to be douchebags or jerks, but to be confident enough to politely speak up when something isn't right. I don't know why I'm such a wimp about this stuff. I don't remember ever being told not to speak up, and my mom is a bit on the abrasive side of the "say what you think" spectrum. I did experience a lot of bullying in elementary and middle school without ever saying anything or reporting it to anyone, mostly out of fear that speaking up would just make things worse. So naturally it never got better until I left that school after eighth grade to go to public school.

I absolutely don't want my kids to go through anything like that, so I'm pondering now what I need to do and watch for and change to do what I can to prevent it. Sometimes the smallest, dumbest thing can start to feel like a "get your shit together" message from life.

Reading:  The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Playing:  Babel by Mumford & Sons


  1. I AM THE SAME. I will specifically order a burger without cheese for a kid who hates cheese, and then when it comes with cheese I will be sitting there trying to scrape it all off with a coffee stirrer instead of asking for my very reasonable order to be done correctly instead of WRONGLY.

    I sometimes think that if I could think of the right SCRIPT, I could do it. Like, I have seen people go up and say, "UM, HEY, I asked for this WITHOUT CHEESE???" with a big HUFFING sigh as they wait for it to be fixed OMG HOW COULD ANYONE EVER MAKE ANY KIND OF MISTAKE??? IT'S UNACCEPTABLE---and that is not a script I can do. But I have trouble thinking of a replacement script that sounds like something I would say.

  2. I hate sending food back, but I frequently have to bc I canNOT stomach tomatoes. It's the one thing I won't just pick off and the one thing they ALWAYS put on even when I've asked for no tomatoes.

    I usually say something like, "I'm sorry to be a pain, but this was supposed to have no tomato." They're always very nice about it. If its a burger I will sometimes just take it off, blot the juice up, and ask for a new bun because tomato-soaked bun is useless to me, and that usually goes over okay too.

    I waited tables very briefly in high school and always felt worse seeing someone try to eat an order that had been screwed up than if they just asked me to correct it. Usually if you politely say "This was supposed to have no X" the server has no problem fixing the issue.

    It took me a long time to get to this point. But I got sick of paying for food that I then couldn't eat because it was sopping with tomato juice. (If the server seems a little less than bright from the get go, I lie and say I'm allergic. That almost always ensures they leave the offending ingredient out.)

  3. I always think of the perfect thing to say 20 min too late.

    honestly, though, I think pregnancy gives you a pass to say whatever the heck you want. maybe until the little one comes out you can go ballistic on all infractions of normal decency, and then find a happy medium after the baby?

  4. that's a tricky one. generally, something being wrong (things to be left off not or wrong thing entirely) seems to go better than improper cooking. i think because the server who knows you were nice and polite about it is not the one fixing it.

    my mother more than once has had a medium-well steak that was seriously undercooked come back burnt the second time. at this point she generally just eats the edges and feeds the squishy, bloody middle to my dad.