We were at lunch the other day at the place with the fireplace where the servers wear brown aprons with their names and stars embroidered in gold.
You know the place.
A woman was at the table next to us, sitting alone, reading a hardback book with a tan and lavender cover. She was probably in her late 60s.
She looked like a nice person reading a nice book. Since I admire anyone who preoccupies themselves with a book instead of scrolling on their phone, I automatically read lots more nice things into her.
I soon realized she was dissatisfied with her mashed potatoes.
I didn’t hear what she said, but I could hear the server apologize as she brought a replacement serving.
I didn’t think much about it until a manager appeared.
“I understand you didn’t like your mashed potatoes,” he said.
She snapped back, “We could lay brick if ya had any.”
What a jerk.
So the person I thought was sweet grandma was actually Mommie Dearest.
She sneered and shook her head while the manager groveled and tried to make make up for the horrible, unspeakable injustice the place had piled on top of her.
For the rest of the meal, I was rooting for the manager to snap, come back with a brick and crush her plate with it before throwing his name tag into the sweet tea pitcher and going to Montana the way he’d dreamed about since the first day he put on those rubber-soled shoes.
He didn’t, and naturally, I didn’t expect him to.
Sometimes I think mean people are happier than people like me and the brickless restaurant manager.
You’re probably the same way. There are lots of us other-cheek-turners out there.
Things people say, do and — of course — post on Facebook get under our skin, and we tend to let them overstay their welcome in our minds.
I once saw a humorous T-shirt that said “contents under pressure” on the front. I still regret not buying it.
Some years ago, I interacted with someone on a daily basis who could say the meanest things. Rarely did a week go by when someone didn’t incur her wrath.
She was a decent person, and I liked her more than most people did. But far more often than not, I thought she could’ve handled situations with a little more finesse.
I always wondered how people with mean streaks could sleep at night.
Then one day, it hit me.
It’s because they let off the steam on a regular basis.
That “contents under pressure” T-shirt doesn’t apply to them, because they don’t ever give anything a chance to build up.
It’s not an endearing quality, but I’ll bet Miss Mashed Potato Breath slept like a baby while relishing the zinger she put on the manager.
We see meanness everywhere — in traffic, on social media, at work and countless other situations in everyday life.
I don’t think anyone would deny it’s getting worse, given our national political climate right now.
I guess there are just more things to be mean about than there used to be.
It’s not my style, though. I don’t think it ever will be.
I’ll normally eat the mashed potatoes, whether I like them or not. And when the server asks me how they taste, I’ll say “fine” 99 times out of 100, regardless of whether or not they would double as mortar.
You probably do the same thing. Most people do. We’re the grease on the cogs of society — keeping someone else’s day from stinking simply by keeping our mouths shut.
I say we stay the course and not let people like Miss Mashed Potato Breath change us.