Friday, February 03, 2006

Mea Culpa

When I worked in France and someone fucked up, there was always a world of shit just waiting to thunder down on your head. The only strategy was to fess up immediately: “Que j’ai honte…..” Basically, “I am a piece of shit, I am so ashamed…..” The angry, red-faced chef, usually with some lethal weapon at hand, would stop in mid-charge. Often, the guy would wind up consoling you.

A theme in some of the posts in the last month has been the decline of mores and ethics all around us. The rich robbing the poor; folks allowing greed or selfishness blind them to those around them; self-absorbtion creating its own kind of blindness to the labors, needs, skills, and sufferings of others.

This kind of attitude has always been part and parcel of life in the service industries. We service workers are always the lowest of the low, or at least are treated that way. The chefs and restaurateurs are always from the most recent wave of immigrants…..the cheapest, and the easiest to look down upon. Last century it was first the Italians (Gene Cavallero at The Colony, Siro M also at The Colony and then on to Le Cirque). Then the French off the ocean liners (Henri Soulé at Pavillon, Lutece, Pierre Merle at Le Berry). Now, of course, we have all the various forms of Latinos, East and West Coast.

In the dining room it runs the same. People seem only to be comfortable being served by people they can look down on, or feel good about throwing some shekels to: the French and Italians again, the Filipino navy stewards after WWII, and most recently actors, college kids, and gay people. Almost any kind of rudeness is allowed…..and unfortunately the rudeness flows back and forth. The hostess snaps at the maid, and artichoke stems go in the Disposal, or those earrings disappear from the bureau. The host is condescending to the barman, and suddenly an extra half-case of champagne appears on the bill…..

Or….the hostess is crazy neurotic and wildly rude to the workers, to the point where no one wants to even retrieve their stuff, or even send a bill…..and the caterer snaps back in a blog. Driven by the same or worse kind of insensitivity to his fellows described above, he thoughtlessly slams an innocent bystander in the process.….trying to clever, catty and ironic. And forgot to change the names, so any pain generated is personal, not general.

Once words are gone from your mouth or your pen… can’t bring them back. Apologies seem beside the point…..There really is no excuse for rudeness. One can only hope that a lesson has been learned, and the future might be informed by a modicum of kindness, understanding and fellowship.

In the meantime, I am embarrassed, sorry…..and yes, ashamed.

Que j’ai honte. Really.


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