“You’ve been out of the country for a long time. Maybe you notice it. Most people don’t.”
The subject was hamburger. At a hamburger joint in Rockville, Maryland, the server had asked:
“How would you like that burger cooked?”
“Medium rare,” we replied.
“I’m sorry. We don’t do medium rare,” was the reply.
Why doesn’t a restaurant cook a hamburger the way the customer wants it cooked?
Recently, in Baltimore, we ran into the same sort of thing. At the Peabody Court hotel, we asked the desk clerk if he could have someone pick up our laundry. We had left it neatly on the bed, with a laundry slip all filled out.
“You have to bring it down here,” was his reply.
“You have to bring it down yourself.”
“What? Isn’t this a hotel? Aren’t you in the hospitality business?”
Our protests were useless. They wouldn’t pick up the laundry because they had a policy against it. The policy was designed to protect them against customers who tried to take advantage of them by claiming laundry had not been returned. Now, a guest has to bring his dirty laundry to the front desk and have it inspected!
The restaurant had similarly taken measures to protect itself from customers who might get sick from uncooked beef. As at the hotel, the precautions are for the benefit of the business, not the customer.
“Oh…and I heard something on the radio…” we continued with our conversation with a colleague. “There is a proposal in Maryland to make it a criminal offense to smoke in a car in which a child under the age of three is riding. Already, you can’t smoke in bars or restaurants. There doesn’t seem to be any limit to the improvements a legislature can make, does there?”
“Yes. And the most amazing thing is that people will go along with anything. There is no resistance. Nobody thinks anymore, they just follow silly rules and procedures. I was just on a trip outside the US with a group of older people. We traveled around other countries with no problem. But coming back to the US was a hassle. They carefully searched all these old people…as if they really thought these folks posed a threat to homeland security.
“This war against terror probably conditioned Americans not to question authority. It’s been going on for 9 years now. As far as I can remember there were only two incidents in all that time…and they were almost comic. One guy set his underwear on fire…the other lit his shoes…”
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