It was 6:57 pm, three minutes before the bakery closed, when a well-dressed looking couple walked in. Without a hello, the first words out of their mouths were, “one pain au chocolat, a chai latte, a coffee . . .” and then a long pause before they began inquiring about the bruschetta that we offered, none of which were already pre-made.
“We close at 7 pm, just so you both know,” said my colleague.
“Well, can’t we eat it here?” they asked with an air of impatience, ignoring our willingness to put together their detailed order 3 minutes before close.
Milan, the girl with whom I was working, told them that they could eat at the bakery if they wanted to, and we would essentially mop around them and wipe their table last. It would have been one thing had they acknowledged the favor that we were doing for them, but like many of our wealthiest customers, they just expected it. They ended up scraping the toppings off one of the bruschetta, and the man got mad when we didn’t have any fake sugars for his coffee.
I don’t get it.
How is it that one could treat another so poorly, as if they had no value as a human being?
Stand on the other side of the counter, and somehow you’re worth less than the food you’re serving. Some customers don’t even have the decency to say hello to you and have forgotten how to say “please” and “thank you.” It’s the way that they look at you and don’t look at you that is so remarkable. You’d think that what you were experiencing was fictional.
“You fit the snooty, rude, rich person archetype well,” I must say.
How is it that one can rationalize such actions? What is going on inside their heads that allows them to sleep well at night knowing they treat others so poorly? Do they just look at you and think, “Ugh, another poor person. You take the time to cook your meals? Did you even go to college? If not, it doesn’t matter because I’m sitting down being served expensive pastries by you, drinking a little coffee that I take little sips from with permanently pursed lips. I have the financial means to waste expensive food if it displeases me when others are starving. I’m better than you which is why you don’t deserve to be acknowledged.”
The only way to retain my faith in humanity is to fool myself into believing that the people with whom I interacted with today are not in fact people, but bodies controlled by evil, little martians without souls. That, and remembering that for every rich and obnoxious snob out there with plutocratic values, I can find at least ten good people.
After getting off work with two, large bags of expired pastries and other foods, quiche, salads, and sandwiches, I made my way over to a friend’s house, L. She happens to be living with family friends who were hosted by L’s parents when they were in college. Now they are returning the favor by hosting my friend.
When I arrived, it was L, her mother and another family friend who had driven up from Rapid City, South Dakota, and then L’s host family, the two parents, two kids, and their dog, Dakota. As soon as she had heard what I was bringing, she told me that tonight was going to be a party. A bottle of white wine was opened and the goods laid out on the table. In exchange for my goods, L’s host father, a pastor and an experienced dumpster diver, jokingly told me that he could find me a mattress if I wanted. He had found one for my friend, though, so perhaps he wasn’t joking!
I wish that I could convey to you how angry I felt today at work, not necessarily because of the customers’ actions towards my coworker and I, but because of the disproportionate distribution of wealth in this world and the effect it has on the way that people treat one another, making others believe themselves to be worth more than others.
When will people understand how little value money has and begin to see the bigger picture?
There is so much talk of ambition and determination in American culture when defining what success means: “So-and-so grew up poor, but through his/her hard work and perseverance, they became extremely wealthy.” It is the overused, unadventurous, pick-your-own-adventure template that has been liked, shared, and adopted by too many.
Why does no one ever talk about kindness, honesty, loyalty, gentleness, and selflessness? How much credit does our society give to the work of educators, counselors, community organizers, volunteers, assisted living residents and caregivers?
To those who say hello when they come into the bakery, thank you. My soul would be dead if it were not for you, like a scrappy piece of burnt bread that never rose. You are the yeast that gives rise to my spirits.
To my close friends, I “love you fiercely,” to borrow from the words of another friend. It is because of you that this world is not overrun by those centered on greed and the attainment of wealth and self-gain. It is because of you that I am grateful to be alive, so that I can come over with expensive French pastries redirected from the trash bin to listen to your Dad read from Bon Appetit! in a funny voice and make bread with you, share a glass of wine, learn how to make pasta by hand, plan adventures on motorcycles that we do not yet own, longboard for hours at night, and stare at frumpy-faced men on buses.