In the days of Twitter, Reddit and viral videos, you might think people would consider their actions a bit more before doing something that might end up with their story splashed on the front page of The Huffington Post.
Terrible things don’t stay under the radar, as in the case of a patron at a Tennessee Red Lobster restaurant who not only did not leave a tip for his or her server, Toni Christina Jenkins, but wrote a racist epithet in lieu of said tip.
The situation is somewhat reminiscent of the Applebee’s customer who wrote, “I give God 10 percent. Why do you get 18?” at the bottom of the receipt, though obviously a rather condescending note can’t compare to a dehumanizing slur.
There are some who will read a story like this about overt racism and scoff, thinking that it can’t possibly be true and must have been fabricated (a thought that indicates simultaneous naïveté and cynicism). Assuming this is true, no one can possibly argue that it’s acceptable behavior. But it’s hardly a surprise with the way many people treat employees in the service sector.
I’m sure most people have witnessed a fellow coffee addict get angry if the impossibly long line at Starbucks is moving too slowly for their taste, or seen a diner send a dish back to the kitchen because it didn’t meet their exact specifications.
If you’ve ever been the victim of an innocent mistake at your local fast food place and played it cool, you may have noticed an air of relieved surprise from the service workers constantly on edge, fearing the next irrationally angry customer who seems to expect four-star service from a drive-through restaurant.
If you’ve ever been rude to a retail associate or a McDonald’s cashier, without provocation, you may be a terrible person. That kind of behavior is not tolerated from toddlers, who run the risk of getting put in time-out if they throw temper tantrums. Why should we expect any less from adults?
The story of the Red Lobster customer goes beyond mere rudeness and falls clear into “pointlessly awful” territory. The best case scenario is that it was in fact a fictional story intended to bring the waitress a little bit of publicity.
But if not, the customer in question was evidently not deterred by the possibility of their gross racism going public. But he or she should have been.
While you just shouldn’t be a terrible person to begin with, you also can’t expect your reprehensible conduct to not garner negative attention. It’s a small world, after all.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at @savannahkthomas