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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hoping For a Bad Meal Seems An Odd Strategy For An Evening Out

Okay, so here’s the picture I’d like to paint for you today:

After a contentious office discussion, you and a big crowd of friends, acquaintances and coworkers have come to an uneasy consensus as to where to go out for dinner.  The choice was far from unanimous… but then, in these workplace ‘cattle-call’ situations, a narrow majority is often the best one can hope for.

You all arrive outside the designated restaurant and, as often happens, a few of the more vocal proponents of the place begin loudly singing the praises of the venue’s chef, ambiance, and entrees… while a few of the more vocal detractors begin loudly knocking the shoddy décor, the crappy service, limited menu and inedible food.

All this, of course, is going on outside on the sidewalk before anyone has even crossed the threshold or been shown a table.

The crowd shuffles slowly into the place and is seated, and the vocal fans and foes of the restaurant begin loudly vying to sway the silent majority (who voted for or against the place, but have, so far, decided to reserve judgment), to their camp.

Now, as anyone who has ever dined out can tell you, going out to a restaurant is one of the most subjective experiences in life (which is why I’ve chosen it for today’s hopelessly-flawed analogy). 

The décor, although static, is just as likely to appeal to me as it is to offend the sensibilities of someone seated at the next table. 

The service will depend on how busy the place is, and can vary drastically even from server to server. 

The mood music can be caustic or conjure fond memories of one’s youth. 

The food is subject to arguably the widest range of perception since even expertly prepared meals may not live up to expectations (or one’s memory of the last time it was ordered)… and, of course, even great chefs have off nights.

So you and your crowd have ordered and begin receiving the various salads, appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts (hopefully in approximately the correct order).

I get that many of the group are unhappy with where they are right now.  I know they wanted with all their heart to have the group go a different way.  But this is where they are for the rest of the evening. 

So, why, at this point, are the nay-sayers still waging their full-throated campaign to convince everyone what a horrible mistake this place was?  It seems to me that once everyone is seated and eating their meals, they would share – at least momentarily - a common interest in trying to make the best of the situation.  

Why continue to ridicule the décor and table-service.  Is there a chance the management will give the place a facelift before dinner is served?

Why berate or sabotage the staff?  Don’t you  know these servers have unfettered access to your food?  

Why denigrate the chef to his face?  Do they think insults will motivate him to make an extra-special effort to turn in a Michelin-star-worthy performance for an ungrateful bunch of loudmouths who are already predicting his failure?

Short of walking out (something many threatened to do at the outset, but few actually followed through with), it would seem that the smart thing to do would be to try to make the best of the situation.  After all, most people in the world don’t have the resources or choice of going out to dinner.  In fact, most of the world would be deliriously happy if there was simply ample food on their table to get them through the day. 

So in that context, this idea of periodically being able to have a say in where to go to have someone prepare your food and serve it to you (and then clean up afterwards), seems to be a bit of an under-appreciated luxury.

Metaphor clear enough?  Obviously, there’s no magical, O. Henry-esque ‘reveal’ at the end of this essay.  I’ve been pretty ham-handed with where I’m headed, metaphorically speaking.

I get that Trump is an inarticulate buffoon. I suspect that for many, he was a gag-choice (think Jesse Ventura in Minnesota).   I can’t watch Trump  speak… it’s too cringe-inducing. But for all his ineptitude and seat-of-the-pants management ‘style’, by accident or design he isn’t screwing up absolutely everything.  Whether talking about the economy or some of the thornier foreign policy mine-fields, a couple of things appear to be, inexplicably, working out for him.  And by working out, I mean to America’s benefit, not just Trumps. 

I get that Trump and many of his appointees are rank amateurs who are clearly making it up as they go along.  Guess what, I can give you a long list of appointees in every Democratic and Republican administration who were also amateurs with little or no government experience.  Some were political patronage drones and some were savvy policy wonks.  But all had no choice but to produce or perish.  Some rose to the occasion… others didn’t. 

But when I see every YouTube mouth-breather and street-corner bigot being blamed on ‘Trump’s America’, I have to wonder if these same people were somehow in hibernation or medicated under previous presidents.  In my experience, idiots don’t wait for particular seasons and opportunities to strut their stuff.  Their bigotry and ass-hattery are well-developed and on display for most of their adult lives, and had little connection to who lived in the White House when they were filmed behaving badly.

But back to the topic at hand, my point is that once a group has exercised some semblance of democratic process, and the results have been announced, doesn’t everyone have a shared interest in making the best of the situation?  There’ll be plenty of time after the meal and back at the office to dissect take-away lessons from the experience, and campaign for the choice of venue for the next office outing. 

But while you are actually sitting in your seat, why try to ruin an unavoidable experience that is already underway?  Why insult the chef, trip the waiters and vandalize the furniture?  This time you got Red Lobster.  Maybe next time you’ll get your way and steer the group to Peter Luger.

I guess I don’t understand the mindset of those who, having had their preference rejected (by however narrow a margin), would pray for food poisoning rather than hope that perhaps the breadsticks and one or two of the less-complicated entrees might be safe.

After all, like I mentioned earlier, not many in the world actually have a choice.

Posted by David Bogner on June 10, 2018 | Permalink

Comments

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"I get that Trump is an inarticulate buffoon. I get that he is destroying relationships with allies. I get that he is doing damage to America and to the world that may be irreversible. I get that he flirts with nuclear war. But hey, why not sit back and enjoy the ride?"

Posted by: David Staum | Jun 10, 2018 5:13:10 PM

Short answer - inside the analogy. To make sure you never get dragged to that restaurant again.

Now, to the Trump presidency. A lot of my friends think he is the worst President ever. For me, he has yet to steal that honor from George W. Bush. Domestic policy is execrable - but essentially the same as Bush's, right down to the grabs for expansive executive power.

Foreign policy is another matter. I'll begin with Syria. There's no way to do any good in Syria, because there are no good choices to be made - and yet, we cannot stand idly by when Assad uses chemical weapons in ways that kill civilians. Obama let that slide, but Trump has responded in a measured way to each such incident.

North Korea - Trump is a bully. This means that he understands and speaks the language of bullies. Those who do not are appalled, but I for one, have noticed that Trump has made more progress with Pyongyang than others because he is not even trying to reason with the unreasonable.

Israel - Moving the embassy to Jerusalem was absolutely right on so many levels, but I think that Trump, in doing so, is signalling that Israel isn't going anywhere. I DO hold it against the Trump administration that Kushner advised Bibi to remove the metal detectors from Har HaBayit.

I so wish I could have Trump's Foreign Policy and Obama's domestic policy, but alas, we must suffer with a set, prix fixee menu that leaves everyone unsatisfied.

Posted by: Rich | Jun 11, 2018 2:59:50 AM

It is worse than your metaphor, my friend. The critics are strapped into their seats in first class, sipping champagne, and they hate the pilot so much that they are praying he crashes.

Posted by: antares | Jun 11, 2018 5:01:02 AM

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