Imagine sitting in a restaurant, perhaps a quaint looking Italian joint with checkered tablecloths and Chianti candles. You absentmindedly knock into the plant on the ledge next to you and unleash what very well might be twenty-five years of dust and pizza crusts. Upon closer inspection, you deduce that what looking like a slightly-faded fern turns out to be a plastic plant caked with more dust and grease than Tony Soprano's underpants.
What you have just experienced is what I like to call "The Knockoff Letdown." It's that feeling when you bite into a cookie at a birthday party and instantly know that it came from the bottom of the shelf at the dollar store. It's that sensation when you're touring a prospective house to buy and putting your hand on the banister, only to find out that it's expertly-decorated foam. It's that moment when you look at a beautiful woman from behind and admire the beautiful tan she was able to get in the middle of January, only to realize once you see her front that half the tan has run down her face and she now looks like a melting Creamsicle.
Our expectations these days are constantly being dashed and quality control is at an absolute all time low. People just don't care about quality of craftsmanship anymore, as they'd rather have a deed done dirt cheap than correctly. This goes across the board, from hardware stores to ivy-league colleges. We are constantly becoming accustomed to expecting less of the people around us. It's at the point now where we aren't even shocked when we receive a shoddy product.
Speaking of shoddy products, can we talk about McDonald's? As a younger boy, I used to love to go to this wonderful place, with its bright colours and happy artifices. Back then, there was still a semblance of pride and quality. That era is most certainly gone and now we're saddled with disgruntled, underpaid workers who get your order completely wrong, nine times out of ten. I was at a McDonald's recently where it took forty-five minutes to get our breakfast. I kid you not children, it took almost an hour for this discombobulated group of nitwits to scrape together some pancakes and breakfast sandwiches. I've gone to five-star restaurants where I didn't even wait that long! The waiting are was literally filled with people, bitter, angry and rightfully so. Most asked for their money back and, happily, they were not rebuked. We saw the Manager in her car after the debacle chain-smoking and weeping like a baby.
A few doors down from this fine establishment is a Dunkin' Donuts which, about a month or so after the previous debacle, my friend and I decided to relax in and chomp on some donuts. To their credit, the food was served efficiently, mostly because it was a crappy day and we were the only two brave enough to brave the snow to get a cup of joe. While taking our order, the twentysomething cashier didn't eek out one little word. I ignored it and shrugged it off, thinking I was expecting too much to have the employee actually talk to me. But, the kicker came when my friend went up to the counter to return her donut, as he had given her the wrong one. Again, not a word spoken to her, but this time he took it a step further and violently flung her donut bag into the trashcan behind the counter with enough force to almost knock it over. All she and I could do was laugh, as it was so ridiculous that this guy with a rather staid job had to be so bitter and violent. (A few weeks later my mom and I visited another DD a few blocks away from that one and the employees behind the counter started screaming at each other.)
Now, isn't there something wrong with this picture? I understand that the people they hire at Mickey-D's aren't exactly Pulitzer-Prize winners, but making the food at a fast food joint doesn't require a degree in advanced physics! When I go to a place like that, I expect to get in and get out and receive what I ordered in edible condition. Is that really so much to ask, my dahlings?
It saddens me that, as a race, we've dropped the bar so low that this sort of nincompoopery is the norm! When did mediocrity become so commonplace that we can't even rally to fight it? Why must we constantly settle for less when we're paying good money for things that should be as we need them. I'm not even talking about people who have heightened expectations, but normal people are being forced to accept apathy and lethargy and cardinal virtues.
We need to fight for what we want and what we deserve, and speak up when people aren't living up to their job expectations. I'm tired of tiptoeing around and being afraid to offend (not that I'm very good at this to begin with.) We need to stop accepting the knock-offs when it comes to both purchases and the people we deal with when we visit these places! A smile, a thank you and kind attitude is not too much to ask of an employee of any business. It takes so little effort to try to make an effort at being hospitable, but so many don't want to put forth the effort.
I want you, my lovely readers, to do one thing if this happens to you in the near future: If an employee at any place gives you any lip, is rude or completely screws up what you've ordered or come to purchase, just smile and say, "I know life is difficult sometimes, but remember that a smile can be the difference between a cloudy sky and a bright sunny afternoon."
It's really that simple.