Last month, shortly after outdoor dining had become legal again (because let’s be honest, it feels like prohibition out here anymore), a friend and I met to have a safe, socially distant brunch. We picked a table in the shade and the server came over to take our drink order. Nothing was out of the ordinary, relatively speaking.

Between taking our orders and when the food came, the server stopped to check on us. We said we were fine, and then something strange happened. She stopped and smiled, “Thank you for being so pleasant.” She turned and left before we could respond. We both just looked at each other.

My friend and I were confused. We hadn’t been doing anything different than we normally do while dining out. Among my friends, I am notorious for needing to do special orders. I’ve even been told that my food palate is similar to a friend’s 12-year-old child. I try to be as politely as possible and not cause too many problems for the server, but I still had a few questions about my choice when ordering that day. Apparently the ranked below whatever other problems people had been causing.

We were dumbstruck. Were people really giving this poor girl, who had been out of work for roughly three months, a hard time? It was also only one o’clock on a Wednesday. Who were these monsters?

You know what; it turns out that there are monsters everywhere. Two friends who both work in retail have shared stories about how nasty customers have been since re-opening as well. I get it. In case you haven’t heard there’s a pandemic and we are all on edge. But there’s no reason to be taking it out on the people who are just trying to help you. In fact, it’s kind of counterintuitive. If you want to be properly taken care of while out, maybe don’t piss off the person who is there to help you. It’s the number one rule after making sure you tip properly.

With everything going on, you would think that people would try to actually be nicer to each other. What happened to the whole “we’re in this together” mantra? I guess it ends as soon as you sit down at a restaurant or walk into a store.

The people working in the service industry – whether it’s serving, back of the house at a restaurant, hosting, retail, fast food – are going through the same anxiety and uncertainty that we are all going through. In fact, they are dealing with it while trying to paint a smile on their face and deal with customers, who they don’t know if they have been following the CDC guidelines.

Plus, there’s the added stress of not being fully open or able to make the amount of money they used to make pre-pandemic. They also have to be the face mask police, and they have to mask their concerns that with everything going on they may not have a job in two months – either because restrictions will shut things down or their establishment could close permanently. Honestly, if that doesn’t make you want to drink, I’m not sure what will.

It’s kind of mind boggling how wearing a mask has become a political issue. Although it always makes me laugh when those anti-maxxers say it’s their right because they live in a free country. Their logic only goes as far as themselves. They don’t realize that because it’s a free country businesses also have the right to require them to wear a mask or refuse service. If they don’t like it, they can stay home. Face condoms, as you have previously heard me call them, don’t flatter anyone. I mean maybe it helps the super uggos, but they are few and far between. It’s been medically proven time and again that masks stop the spread of COVID and keep more people from dying.

Sure, we all have bad days and might accidentally lash out. I will never live down the time when my twin nephews were maybe 1-year-old and having melt downs and I got frustrated and had a meltdown as well. Even they stopped mid-meltdown and looked at me like I was crazy. Yes, I got shamed by 1-year-olds.

We might also say things and it’s taken a different way than how we intended. But as a society, if we are at a point where common decency is so rare that it requires a special acknowledgement, then we are losing a bigger battle than the one we are fighting with coronavirus.

For the record, the bill ended up being $45 dollars and we left a $20 tip. If her day wasn’t going well, hopefully by the time we left it had turned around a little bit.

Padraic Maroney hails from upstate New York, suffering from middle child syndrome.  His writing career began after moving to the Philadelphia suburbs while in high school. He wrote for The Bucks County Courier Times’ Reality section, written by local teenagers, and has the distinction of writing a weekly gossip column for a college newspaper at a school he didn’t even attend! His love of pop culture led him to intern at Teen People, where he met Janis Gaudelli, and realized he could turn being a millennial into a career. Since then he’s alternated between writing and marketing, but always focused on Millennials and everything they bring to the table. Padraic is a lover of shenanigans, 80s music, and the movie “Scream.”

You can follow his additional adventures on Instagram: @padraicjacob

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