From the Braver Institute
One summer back when I was eight or nine years old I received a phone call from my friend Pete. He asked if I was interested in riding my bike to Harvey to meet him there. There was no real reason to meet him, I think it was just the adventure of the bike ride. Pete lived in Marquette and I lived in the woods, Harvey was in the middle.
We had agreed that we would meet at the A&W restaurant in Harvey. There was no real reason to meet at the A&W, I think we just thought that it would be cool to meet in a restaurant like grown-ups did.
It was a typically hot summer day and going into the A&W’s air conditioned comfort felt great. This A&W was really cool because instead of having a waitress come to your table to take your order, there were telephones at each booth to call a waitress who would then take your order over the phone.
Neither Pete nor I had any money, so we did what any kid our age would do—we picked up the phone and ordered two glasses of water. A minute later a waitress arrived at our table with two glasses of water and a disgusted look on her face. We didn’t really give a thought as to why she might look so annoyed and if we did we would probably have concluded that she was just having a bad day.
We drank our water and talked about all the important things there would be to talk about at that age and when our glasses were empty … Pete picked up the phone and ordered more water.
When the waitress arrived this time she gave a little clearer indication as to what was bothering her. “Aren’t you going to order something other than water?” she asked. Pete replied simply “no.”
The waitress turned and headed back to wherever the waitresses waited for phone calls. She looked even more disgusted than the first time. It still didn’t sink in that she was disgusted with us. At that age kids are pretty shallow, and very self-centered. Besides, we couldn’t have ordered anything even if we wanted to. We had no money.
Thinking back, it really took a lot of nerve to just order water. Though it probably wasn’t nerve, it was just youthful ignorance. At that age you just think that everything is provided as a service. Kind of like a public park being there for everyone to enjoy at no charge. Water was provided at no charge in restaurants, so why not order some when you have no money? We would never have given a thought to the idea that it actually cost the restaurant owners money to give away water.
Of course I would never do such a thing today. Doing that now would really take a lot of nerve.
Although what reminded me of all of this was very much a nervy thing much like our water order.
I was standing in line at one of those mini fast food restaurants that are attached to gas station/ convenience stores when I noticed a woman walk in from the convenience store side of the place. She walked up to the soda fountain, stuck one hand under the ice dispenser and pressed the button with the other hand. She then stood there and ate the handful of ice.
She then went to the counter and told one of the employees that she would like a cup of ice. With a slightly puzzled look, the employee grabbed a cup and went to the soda fountain that was behind the counter to fill the cup. The lady asked if the ice was the same as the ice on the public side of the counter. The employee replied with an even more puzzled look that it was and filled the cup with ice. The lady then said that she likes to eat ice cubes and took the cup and walked back to the convenience store side of the place.
“That took a lot of nerve” I thought as I stood there. Then I had to wonder, was it really nerve? Or was it possible that a person could remain that ignorant so far into adulthood?
After a lot of careful thought I have concluded that the latter is most likely the case. I think I like the idea that the world is full of ignorant people more than I like the idea that the world is full of willfully nervy people
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