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Mr. Wrong

A Mouthful of Advice

By Joe MacLeod | Posted 6/13/2001

It's college-graduation time again, and it looks like all those honorary degrees and invitations to address the Class of 2001 that I was expecting have been, uh, misdirected or otherwise lost in the mail or something. So I would like to take this opportunity to depart from my usual offering of thoughtful seriousness and share with you the Graduation Message that pops into my head this time of year, echoing in the cavernous emptiness of my skull until I write it down or hear a real catchy radio-commercial jingle that pushes out Bad Thoughts.

Congratulations, graduates. You're an Army of One, without the boot camp. You're ready to grab Life by the short and curlies and ride until it won't be rode no more, hah? Yee-ha. Look, as soon as you sober up from the graduation party, clean yourself up, find your clothes, get someone to post bail if necessary, and get a goddamn job. That's it--it's that simple. Actually, you coulda skipped all the college crapola and gone directly to this step in The Game, because unless you've got a winning lottery ticket or you're planning on burrowing deep back into the bountiful Bosom of Academia for more book-learnin', it's now time for you to go out and find some sort of Gainful Employment so you won't be a burden to your parents and people like me who Work for a Living.

Sure, some of you went to school to be doctors or firefighters or atomic scientists or something equally useful, so you know exactly what you're gonna do. That's peachy. Go do it. Presently, the rest of you will likely find yourself a supply-side part of the nation's vast Food Service Industry, and I want you to know that's nothing to be ashamed of. It's a job, OK? It's probably not what you would like to do for the Rest of Your Life, but it's all part of eventually finding that certain something to do for the Rest of Your Life, or most of the Rest of Your Life anyway, until you get too feeble or inappropriately angry to be useful anymore and they kick you to The Curb, where once again you will be supported by people like me who Work for a Living--supported at a marginal subsistence level anyway, until you croak and go to your final reward, whatever you think that might be.

It's not that bad really. Not croaking, I mean--that's bad. I'm talking about being a spoke in the gargantuan Wheel of Food Service, the backbone and belly of our great nation. There's a certain sense of pride and accomplishment you will glean from your first attempts at Gainful Employment, waiting on tables or assembling sandwiches or folding burritos or pouring drinks or cleaning grease out of deep fryers or doing salad prep or refilling ketchup bottles with brands of ketchup other than the brand advertised on the label. It's Good, Honest Work. You're responsible for the feeding of Our Nation, so all I ask of you as you go out into the wide world of Food Service is: Please don't spit in my food. Please don't put bad stuff on my food. Please don't drop my food on the floor before you put it on my plate. Please.

I mean, I don't know what's going on, but I hear a lot of reports these days about people getting fired for adding unnatural condiments to the food they're dispensing. Have you talked to anyone in the Food Service Industry lately? It's like all they're doing back there is dropping the food on the floor and kicking it around before adding the special sauce or whatever. And look, I'm a pretty good tipper. I don't care what kind of restaurant I'm in; I don't usually complain about my food too much because I'm scared that if I tell them to heat up my soup or trim the crusts off my sammich, they're gonna add some bonus ingredients that aren't on the menu. I save my complaining for the exit interview, because if I have a serous problem with the restaurant, I'm not coming back and I want them to know why. They ask you almost every time at almost every restaurant if your meal was good. Use that opportunity to tell the truth.

(And while we're at it, tipping goes like this: Punish or reward the server and the server only. If you leave a substandard tip, you're sending a message to the server and nobody else. You're killing the messenger. If you didn't like the chicken-fried steak or whatever, tell the manager, or the cook, if you've got the balls to go into the kitchen and criticize someone who's probably holding a large knife. If the chicken-fried steak appeared on the table on a clean plate in a timely fashion, you owe the server his or her 15 to 20 percent.)

A lot of these food-adulterating stories involve the cops. I can understand this. I'm not saying I approve, because it's an ultra-weasel move to screw with anyone's victuals behind his or her back, and anyone caught doing it should pay the price. You screw with my food? That means you want me dead. It's attempted murder. So look, I don't approve of any hijinx with food for cops. But I understand The Hate. A lot of your Food Service employees have bounced around in the criminal-justice system a little, and I can see the motivation for adding a little extra garnish to Officer Friendly's cheese steak. But basically, it's like this, Class of 2001: Anyone screwing with anyone's food should get the death penalty. Thank you, and have a nice life.

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