We’re having breakfast and KC the Dog came in for his morning fish oil capsules, which he chomps on like gummy bears and then smiles, I swear, when the fishy oil spurts into his mouth. Frank has been kind enough to make me breakfast, which I love; I think it’s one of the most romantic things a man can do.
Anyway, there’s KC the Dog at the table, grinning up at me with his grizzled snout nudging my elbow. “Hey, are you done?” he says. “Let me take that for you.” If he could, he would grab the plate, eggs, muffins and all, and make a dash for the door.
It reminds me of that waitress last night at a local restaurant, and the one the week before at a chain. Somehow “pre-bussing” as it’s called, has become the norm, and has now spread from the chain restaurants to the local eateries. I practically have to guard my dish like a goalie to keep them from grabbing it out from under me. Last night the waitress took my soup bowl, and then, unceremoniously, also grabbed my empty iced tea glass. With unusually fast thinking I spoke up and said, “Oh, hey, I wanted more iced tea.” She came back with the glass refilled, but no ice, no lemon.
Then she went after Frank’s dish. And my partner, the most polite, mild-mannered teddy bear in the world, finally got riled up. When the waitress tried to grab his plate out from under him, saying, “Done?” he replied, “Sure, I’m done. Take it, take it all,” and then he said, “Even though I’ve paid for the coffee, take that too,” and piled his coffee cup and saucer and water glass into her hands along with the dinner plate.
While I was a little chagrined, another part of me cheered, ‘Hurrah for Liberty! A victory for the People!’ It was like that scene in “Five Easy Pieces” when Jack Nicholson, as Bobby, wants plain toast, which isn't on the menu, and so the waitress is refusing to take the order. (The screenplay was by Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson):
“Bobby: I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.
Waitress: A #2, chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?
Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.
Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?
Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.”
That movie was made in 1970, almost 45 years ago. An earlier, more civil, and in some ways more humane time when in even a simple diner, you would at least be asked if you wanted more coffee or a refill of your iced tea. The similarity to today is in the operative phrase, “and you haven’t broken any rules.”
What does this have to do with anything? you ask. Well, a lot of things. Number one, restaurant profits are getting thinner, so management is being ordered by higher-ups to instruct the staff to not let customers linger. The managers are scared. Service workers are being paid slave wages, not even enough to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, so they’re scared, and follow the rules without using good judgment.
The country is changing. It’s a progression from what we are told our country stands for and is our patriotic duty to defend: free market capitalism, to now, some new economic mutation we don’t quite yet see for what it is, a form of corporatism.
Eric Cantor uninvited to Tea Party
I recently read about how nanotechnology is developing bio-engineered parts that will do the job that machine-parts now do. For example, writes industrial designer David Rejeski in RISDxyz in an article that the editor described as “urging us to think about the ramifications of designing with radical new materials,” viruses engineered at MIT “coat themselves with iron and then attach to ultrathin carbon wires to form a conductive network.” Literally, living cells are put to work.
Scary stuff. Bio-engineering; stem cell research, gene-splicing; abortion; tree-hugging anti-frackers; immigration reform – all from the godless liberals! Wait a minute, how did drilling and immigration reform get in there?
So there’s a groundswell of reaction. And because we have a democracy, we have lately been mostly concerned that people are being manipulated to vote for whoever has the most money to pay for ads. But now something else is going on that has everyone scratching their heads. A Tea Party candidate didn’t even need outside money to win a high-profile primary.
The defeat of seven-term Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary in Virginia in June is instructive. It is being dissected and trisected. I think J.J. Goldberg, editor-at-large for the Jewish Daily Forward, got it mostly right in a very savvy piece, “Did Eric Cantor lose because he’s Jewish? You betcha.” (June 12, 2014)
A discussion had erupted over the question of whether Cantor had lost because he is Jewish. Well, yes, says Goldberg, but not exactly – not because he is Jewish, but because he is not-Christian. Goldberg says it’s not because of anti-Semitism or because of Cantor’s views on Israel or his Republican creds. For one thing, said Goldberg, it’s because the district was redistricted to embrace a wider Bible belt by Republicans hoping to ensure a stronger Republican majority, and that brought in a more fundamentalist Christian vote that was delighted to have a Christian minister they could vote for; Tea Party Republican Dave Brat, standing for Christian values.
But one of the hot-button issues Brat ran on was against immigration reform. That folks are equating the bogeyman of immigration reform with Christian values is a victory for the genius of hard right-wing activism; it’s the perfect conflation of religion and politics. Brat didn’t even need outside money to beat Cantor. It obviously didn’t happen overnight.
So much for separation of church and state. Apparently, we can’t separate the two anymore.
This column first appeared in print as BREAKFAST, INTERRUPTED in the Gallup Independent, June 14, 2014 Spiritual Perspectives Religion Column page 24. Diane J. Schmidt's reporting for the Gallup Independent just received a national first place award for Enterprise Reporting, from the National Federation of Press Women. This was for her series, read at Con Man in Old Town posing as a Native and Jewish healer. Read more online at The Albuquerque Judaism Examiner. And, Be Sociable! Subscribe!