Idiots abound. The planet’s covered with them. Grossly undereducated U.S. Senators (and over-bronzed Congresspeople), fundamentalist extremists on both sides of religiously-tinged boundary conflicts, the whaling industry, people who aren’t paying attention while corporations buy up the souls of their legislators, Westoboro Baptist…and a lot of that idiocy is mortally, epically, catastrophically, criminally (if things ran right) dangerous. I wonder whether there ought to be a different term for that kind of idiocy–the kind that strays over into evil?
Then there’s the normal kind. My office mate’s student who, sporting a fine example of deer-in-headlights expression, insisted that my office mate should be in the office to answer his question at a time my office mate does not hold office hours (it’s the end of the semester–I’m pretty sure my office mate has his office hours printed on his syllabus). It’s possible that I now hold the world record for using the word “office” in one sentence. Anyway, normal idiocy ranges from doctors who don’t listen to patients to students who goof off all semester and then suddenly discover that professors hold office hours to any number of things I do on any given day. Not all of it leaves damage. But a lot of it does. And, while the evil there isn’t, per se, huge, it collects and collects, like plastic bags in the ocean.
The mean stuff does leave damage. And here’s a recent example (or set of examples):
Servers making nasty notes about customers. Okay. I get it–I have been a server. I have been a motel clerk. I have nastily nicknamed customers who were irritating the bejeebers out of me (at the motel, that was mostly Pentagon types who thumped their Service Academy rings on the counter so I’d know they were special…). I don’t recall that I ever thought of anyone as “fat,” but I suspect that I thought plenty of cringe-worthy, dehumanizing things. Servers, bartenders, and cashiers tend to be on the receiving end of a lot of assholicity from customers of all stripes/classes/descriptions, and tend to cope by making fun of the relevant customers. I think it’s entirely human behavior, if unattractive. The customers who mistreat servers–well, they kind of get what they deserve–and they actually tend to get nothing much at all by way of actual consequences–especially in a retail culture that thinks people who work for minimum wage should take whatever abuse managers and customers dish out, endlesssly.
But what’s striking here is that the server actually typed the “fat girls” thing into the computer. Why the devil would you do that? Because you’re so acclimated to thinking of people in derogatory terms, have been so consistently taught that that’s an okay way to be, because you’re so without filters and decency that you just wouldn’t even think twice before doing it, or because you’re the sort of jerk who thinks that a keyboard is a free-zone for whatever creepy beasties you harbor inside to come out and play? All of the above?
Clearly, there are a lot of people out there who think the combo of a keyboard and a screen are a license to be their least, most id-ridden, acid-hearted selves. We rightly call them trolls–though this may be derogatory to trolls, depending on which mythology you’re thinking in terms of (Terry Pratchett trolls as opposed to Tolkein trolls…). And clearly that sort of “permission” to be an asshole extended, in this case, to what got typed into the restaurant computer.
I’m struck, though, by the fact that the women in question stood up for themselves. That seems to me to be a very good thing. And that the restaurant treated their complaint seriously–offering them a 25%, then a 50% reduction in their bill, which the women declined, insisting on a more substantive response from the restaurant. Both of those things seem good to me, seem like signs of progress. As is the fact that the story made the news, although that’s a much a function of the voraciousness of the 24-hour news cycle as of any increased sensitivity on the part of the media. “Fat Girls Stand Up for Themselves” is, sadly, sort of like “Man Bites Dog”–inherently surprising, though not as much as it used to be. Like I said, progress.
I guess it goes without saying that I pretty much assume the same guy wouldn’t have typed “fat guys” into the computer–that his feeling like it was okay to think and then type “fat girls” was conditioned partially by his belief that, as a male, he was entitled to think about women solely in terms of their appearance/sexual currency. Sigh.
I’m enough of a bleeding heart to hope that the bartender doesn’t lose his job over this–unless he’s bad at it, which is another matter. It’s probably a good thing for us all that being an idiot doesn’t generally come with criminal charges or dire consequences, though I have thought by times that there maybe should be an “I’m an Idiot” tee shirt that people could be forced to wear for a number of days appropriate to the level of their idiocy, except that there’s a whole class of idiots for whom the thing would become a badge of achievement…
Anyway, here’s to the three fat chicas who stood up for themselves (not the ones in the photo, but I happened to have a nice photo of three particularly charming fat girls…). Kudos.