December 31, 2009

There is Always a Way

I like clever people, and I especially like the ones who tell stories of their own cleverness without making it sound as though they're bragging. I always learn something from people like that.

The following was told to me by an acquaintance, many years ago, in another state. I'll leave his name out to further protect his modesty.

he was the managing partner in a restaurant situated several miles outside of town. The place had a country-club feel, being isolated out there in the hills and trees, and the city's leading businessmen liked it because the tables had lots of space between them. It was where you'd go for lunch if you valued your peace and privacy, and if you were the sort who didn't blink at the menu prices.

He served fine food, including foie gras, and this got the attention of the local animal-rights nuts, who scheduled a tantrum in his parking lot. They notified him ahead of time—mighty thoughtful of them—and although they said they only wanted to "call attention" to the inhumanity of serving goose liver, he worried. Would his exclusive, low-profile clientele be put off by the spectacle, perhaps never to return?

There was no stopping the protesters. They would set up on the driveway, which by this state's laws made it illegal for him to have them removed unless they actually prevented him from doing business. He had another driveway, so the cops wouldn't touch them.

He would have to rely on his wits.

one day prior, he called his plumber.

"I want you to send one of your guys out here at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. He absolutely has to be on time, and he has to be in a truck with your logo on it. I will pay your hourly rate, and all I want him to do is sit in my restaurant and enjoy breakfast and a newspaper until I let him go. You can't breathe a word of this to anyone. Deal?"

The plumber agreed. In fact, he would handle the job himself.

The partner also called his best waiter and asked him to show up two hours early that day. No explanation; just be here in uniform at 9 a.m., prepared to serve. And so he did.

The restaurant didn't open until 11:30, but on that cool autumn morning it didn't technically have to be open for what was about to take place.

while the waiter served the plumber breakfast, the partner stood in the foyer, watching the parking lot. When the first of the protesters showed up about 10 a.m., he stayed put. When a TV news van appeared at 10:30, he signaled to his waiter.

"Would you like tea? Yes, we will bring you some tea."

The partner walked out to the news crew and let them know they were welcome to film all they wanted, and that he would answer any questions they had for him, but not on camera. The protesters stood shivering nearby while he gave a full interview, and the reporter took notes.

Then the partner greeted the protesters, shaking hands while the camera rolled. He gestured to his waiter, who emerged from the restaurant with a tray loaded with fine breakfast pastries. He also delivered them an enormous coffee pot full of his finest blend. The protesters and the news crew delved in.

"Not a coffee drinker? Would you like tea? Yes, we will bring you some tea."

As the protesters began to tell the partner all their grievances, he stood silently, nodding, and the camera took it all in. After a time, having said all they wanted to say to him, they started passing out their placards to wave at any patrons who'd be showing up soon.

And right about then, dams began to bulge.

The protest leader, who for 20 minutes had been explaining to his host what a barbarian he was, re-approached him with a neighborly request: May we use your restroom?

"I'm sorry, fellows. The plumber is still here. The bathroom's off-lmits until he's done."

With that, he turned to the reporter.

"Do you have all you need from me?"

The journalist nodded.

The partner thanked his guests, shook all their hands, then helped his waiter carry the coffee,  tray, and dishware back into the restaurant.

within 10 minutes, the reporter had finished his "on the scene" shot and the crew started packing its gear. The protesters fidgeted aimlessly for a few minutes, then began piling into cars to seek the nearest bathroom. They would need to go several miles for that. By the time they'd relieved themselves, they agreed their day's ends had been accomplished, and went home.

The restaurant's patrons began arriving for lunch a short while later, having no idea anything had occurred there that morning. Some heard later about a news report on local TV that day, and they shrugged.

Posted by: Michael Rittenhouse at 08:57 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 Too funny! But  ~ I grew up where the only cure for mange was to shoot the dog. I can eat veal and industrial poultry even though I've seen the news showcasing the inhumane processing. But one time on TV I saw a goose or duck or somesuch being force fed for foie gras. I have never been served foie gras in my life and in small town Arkansas probably never will. But I truly feel squeamish any time it is mentioned. I just cannot un-see, as you put it, that duck flailing against that pipe as it was shoved in. Strange the things that getcha and the things that don't.

Posted by: Sandra at March 13, 2012 05:58 PM (pLKee)

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