a bit of good and a bit of bad

the bad:

i stopped by a little shop last night to grab a shawarma - because i finally found a place in stuttgart that has them and they are the best thing ever - at a little lebanese place downtown. the food takes a little while, but it is so fresh and so worth it... it is also run in the evenings by a really nice, very generous, soft-spoken guy who kind of looks like he needs a hug.

anyway... there were four guys sitting at a table across from me as i was waiting for my food... i don't think i can accurately describe just how irritating they were - loud, obnoxious, rude, unsatisfiable... and, of course, speaking in english. i sat back and listened as they harassed this poor guy and did nothing but complain, while the waiter/cook was going way out of his way to be accommodating... even speaking english when most people in this city look at you like you have two heads if you speak english to them. i got up to get my order and pay (and tell the waiter to just take a deep breath...), when one of the men at the table started actually banging his coke can on the table like an impatient two year old (apparently, the grill wasn't cooking his meat fast enough for him). i saw red... and i got all soap-boxy... and i lectured.

they tried to use the excuse that they were irritable because they were stuck in stuttgart due to the volcanic ash. then they tried to use the excuse of being very - and i quote - 'particular about food.' i found this particularly funny because, in a city full of gourmet restaurants and cafes (one of which, i currently work for), they were huddled around a (plastic) table at a fast food restaurant in an alley. then one of the men tried to brush off his - quoting again - 'regrettable display of rude behavior,' speaking in a tone as if i was simply going to excuse him. i almost laughed at the shocked expression on his face when i told him that, yes, i had seen and heard all of it and that he should be ashamed of himself for subjecting anyone to that kind of appalling treatment. ... i asked him/them to be more considerate and then i left. i can only hope that they were at least shamed into being more civilized.

this kind of (pardon the lack of eloquence here) utter crap is why i believe every single person should be required to work in the service industry for at least a year of their life. military service imparts honor, discipline, loyalty, etc. ... waiting tables or working in customer service teaches patience and appreciation for service, and - most of the time, at least - comes with a whopping dose of humility and gratitude. it probably wasn't my place to wag my finger at the four toddlers-in-adult-bodies at the restaurant last night... but i was also shocked that i was the only person who said anything in a room full of other people.

disappointing is about the only word i can think of (aside from being steaming mad) for how i felt as i walked off with my (absolutely delicious) shawarma.

the good:

a little boy came into the ice cream parlor i am working at, along with a gaggle of other kids. he told me that he had forgotten his money but that he would pay me/someone for the ice cream the next day... i wanted to pay for him myself, but i knew that if i did that for him, it would be completely unfair to not do the same for the other kids (not to mention that word travels through these kids' grapevine at warp speed). my heart broke at the dejected look on the little boy's face... but then the most amazing thing happened: a kid standing next to the cash register - who couldn't have been more than maybe 12 or 13 - turned to the very sad-faced boy and asked him what he wanted, pulled out a couple of euros, and told the little boy to enjoy his ice cream... and then, smiling, simply walked away.

maybe i am blowing this way out of proportion, but i think such a pure act of simple charity is pretty awesome. very few people would go out of their way for a stranger and if/when they do, most of the time, it's in the pursuit of recognition for their 'giving spirit.' i wish you could have seen the look of complete and utter joy on this little boy's face after he realized that he would, in fact, be able to get his ice cream (he picked chocolate). it very literally made my day. ... it also reminded me that little acts of kindness go a long way.

1 comment:

Jamie Parfitt said...

Thanks for the story of the little boy. Kind of like Charles Dickens.

Those guys must be the poster "children" for the term "Ugly American." (Were they American? Or have they just watched too much American TV?)

I'm very, very sorry about the loss of your brother.