Sunday, September 26, 2010

Give me the damn salad

After having multiple conversations with Tom and Matt about honesty, I was forced to do some self reflection about two issues. First, I don't feel I was able to fully communicate my stance on honesty, or why I think it is important. Second, there are undeniably problems with being completely honest. To better address these two issues, I have developed a new metaphor.

Let's say in another universe, we have the restaurant industry, which does everything it can to please its customers. The main difference is that in this universe, if you order something that your waiter does not think you will enjoy, he will bring you something else while telling you that's what you ordered. If you order a salad, your waiter will bring you a burger and insist it is a salad. Most people are happy with this system, but not me.

When I order a salad, I want them to bring me the damn salad. Experience has taught me that societal perceptions here have little to do with reality. When we were in high school, we could not have imagined being honest about masturbation. As adults, we see that in a society which has no problem talking openly about masturbation, our perceptions were unfounded. All subjects are like this, we are only scared of honesty because of our perceptions of how bad that honesty would be. Every time I have tried a dish that others insist would be terrible (having never dared try it themselves), it turned out fine.

There is also the issue of lingering doubt. While they may enjoy what they are eating, people know they cannot trust a waiter's insistence that they were given the dish that they ordered. This can be an issue when you actually need to know what dish you were given, yet there is no way to know for sure.

But most importantly, as an adult I feel this is my decisions to make. Despite how strongly the waiter feels I won't enjoy the salad (despite being wrong in every other insistence), I like trying new things, and if this salad truly is terrible then that is my mistake to make. Yet, nothing I say to this waiter will get me a salad, nor will he ever relent that the burger in front of me is not actually a salad.

So in pursuit of this belief, my restaurant pledges to always give customers exactly what they order. However, this is far from the first restaurant to make such a claim. There are two types of restaurants which claim to always give customers what they order, neither of which actually do.

The first type is just lying. It's something they say to attract customers, or to give credibility to their claims that the burger they gave you is indeed a salad. But they're sure as shit not going to give you that salad. They give you what you order...when you order something that's already good. Their claims of honesty and integrity are meaningless, the reality is they are no better than any other restaurant in this regard.

The second type of restaurant simply hates their customers. "Giving customers what they ordered" is an excuse to give them the worst dish they can come up with. True, if you order a salad, they will give you a salad, and do everything they can to make it the horrible salad you've always feared. But they only wish to make your experience unenjoyable, not that they care about what you ordered. If they think of something worse to give you that they think they can pass off as your order, they'll give you that instead.

So my restaurant faces some problems with new customers. Society has come to expect that when they order a salad, what they'll get is a burger and a pat on the head. Or in the rare cases they order a salad and actually get one, it has always identified the type of restaurant which hates their customers, and they should avoid in the future. Now I will make this salad as pleasant as I can, but I'm going to give them the salad they asked for.

This brings up the issue of "want" versus "order." Typically, when someone orders a salad what they are really asking for is a burger that they're told is a salad. From a certain perspective, it can be argued that I'm not giving people what they're actually asking for.

On the other hand, what about people who actually want a salad? They want to be treated like an adult, and given whatever they ordered regardless of whether their waiter thinks they should be given that dish. They also want the assurance that comes with knowing that what they are eating is indeed what they ordered. These are the exact people I want to serve at my restaurant, I cannot deny them what I promised to provide to instead continue supporting the idiotic status quo.

So what do I do when a new customer comes in and orders a salad? I say "no, I'm not giving you a salad. You don't really want a salad, and I'm not going to lie to you. Order something else."

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