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Some observations on the American character … or the lack thereof … and where it is taking us.

A  (sort-of) well-meaning Del Taco®

Start: Let me share with you an observation of an all-too-American trait.

News outlets delight in serving up horror stories about the disgusting things that fast food restaurant employees can do to a customer’s order and about inappropriate acts done by them (oh, say, like this one) but let me turn the tables for a moment. What about the things the customers do to them?

(If you had the inkling that I was some kind of health food nut, I will lay waste to that illusion this very moment.)

A few weeks ago I walked into a Del Taco® unit with the intent of grabbing a quick lunch, and at the counter was a lanky, mid-thirtyish white guy with wild, dirty blonde hair wearing jeans and a blue plaid shirt, a guy I took to be some kind of mechanic, asking the cashier questions about the menu and trying to decide what to order. What caught my attention first was that this … what should I say … idiot was bleeding from his hands onto the counter, and that he was handing the cashier freshly bloodstained bills as he went back and forth about what he was ordering. The cashier had handed him some napkins, which this guy was using in a completely ineffectual way to clean up the unconscionable mess he was creating.

What was almost worse in my mind was that there was no manager calling this guy on it, and hustling him off to clean up his injuries or leave the store, and then cleaning up the mess with some serious disinfectant and with the protection of rubber gloves. Hopefully the cashier had some sense of what this … (grrrr) … was doing to her, and potentially to the customers behind him.

(I do wonder if I was the only customer in that store at the moment that picked up on the gravity of the situation. No one else outwardly displayed any issue.)

After a few seconds of that, I shook my head to myself in disgust and went to the In-N-Out Burger® joint on the other end of the parking lot. I was sorely tempted to ask if they had a policy on this kind of thing. I probably should have.

Inconsiderate Behavior Raised to an Art Form

Now, look: I live in Las Vegas, Nevada, and this restaurant is in what I consider a “nice” part of neighboring Henderson — nice meaning that drive-by shootings are unusual and that I don’t have to worry about inadvertently stumbling into a drug deal in progress.

(Sorry, I guess I’m fussy that way.)

I’m not expecting everyone in my world to act like a mature adult — usually — but this kind of stupidity is all too common of the American Species that I’ve experienced.

You don’t have to be Howie Mandel to realize we are all regularly subjected to the potentially disease-ridden excretions and, well, fluids of other human beings on a regular basis.

How many times have you gone into a public restroom and noticed, more often than not, other users not washing their hands afterwards? This pretty much guarantees that the next time you use a shopping cart, the handlebar is covered with traces of fecal matter.

Yes I use disinfectant wipes on shopping carts. (If you don’t, I insist you close this browser window and wash your hands before you come back to this blog. Yes, both of them.)

And as for our [Expletive Deleted] [expletive deleted] at the Del Taco® counter … how long has anyone with any sense (outside of the medical profession) been mindful of blood exposure? I mean, how long has AIDS been popular? Let alone Hepatitis C?

Oh, how about thirty years.

Hel-low!? Hello McFly!?

Going to the Horse’s Mouth

A (sort of) well-meaning Del Taco® counter
The scene of the … customer health crime?

Today I went back into that Del Taco®, and having an enquiring mind that wants to know, got the attention of the manager on duty and took him aside to ask about these kind of incidents. After all, shouldn’t the company have a policy about this? Is there any training to deal with people who present obvious potential health risks to other customers, let alone the employees?

Couldn’t this be compared to someone smoking in the restaurant area? The Health Nazis have rammed that one down our American throats, so is this much of a leap to take this step? The staff has the authority to throw someone out for smoking, so why not someone bleeding all over the property?

The answer was no, they didn’t have a policy.

I must note the person in charge (an assistant manager, I believe) was candid in his responses, and thanked me sincerely for my interest. He was thoughtful enough to call his (offsite) manager, who in turn offered to contact their Risk Management department and get back to me about the issue. (I’ll update this post if they do.)

Naturally I’m curious what the response will be.

(Hopefully, they will respond.)

Acting Like a Horse’s … Butt

What is sad to me is that we, members of a society that thinks of itself as 234 years old, don’t seem to have the collective sense of a Fifth Grader.

This isn’t just about hygiene. It’s about answering our cell phone more than once in a movie theater while the feature is in full swing. It’s about our cutting off and holding up half a block’s worth of drivers because we have to get into the far lane. It’s about waking neighbors up at 4:00 AM with subwoofers blasting loud enough to set off car alarms because we have to have our Hip Hop. It’s about blaming others for choices we knew were stupid when we made them, but we let ourselves make anyway. It’s about voting for political leaders only because they promise to fulfill expectations we’ve had all our lives that never had any semblance to reality. It’s about cutting enough safety corners to destroy a drilling rig and turn the Gulf of Mexico into an ecological disaster to ensure the CEO can get his multi-million dollar bonus this Quarter.

It’s about forgetting how to give a crap about the other guy.

How much more selfishness and lack of consideration can this society — let alone this species — bear? At what point will our ingratitude for the gifts we’ve been given as citizens of this country, the tunnel-visioned greed of our corporate titans, and the bureaucratic, mindless territoriality of our legislators and leaders destroy everything we have left?

The answers to this problem are simple, so simple that stating them are an exercise in the obvious, and this makes it even sadder that we don’t get it.

There are those who claim we have been deliberately “dumbed down” as a people. No, I don’t buy it. This is side-stepping responsibility for what we’ve become. We have only ourselves to blame.

In 1956. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev denounced the United States with the words “We will bury you.” Khrushchev is gone. The shadow of his Russia remains, but the threat was always a moot point. We don’t need anyone to bury us.

If we continue on this path of selfish stupidity, we will bury ourselves.

Update, May 29, 2010: The fine folks at Del Taco® haven’t bothered to try to contact me, as promised by the unit manager. I guess that means that they don’t give a crap either.

Copyright © 2010, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.

End

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Daniel

Daniel Brenton is the creator/author of the 5 Second Novel series, co-author of the space race thriller Red Moon (with David S. Michaels), and is the author of the satirical column The Round Files, published in Stuart Miller’s short-lived Alien Worlds Magazine.

Despite being a writer, Daniel has no cats at this time, is unwilling to become an alcoholic, and has a very difficult time keeping a straight face while writing about himself in third person.

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