Thursday, May 31, 2018

Him

We were uncomfortable straight away.

Only minutes after seating ourselves in the restaurant, we started wishing we'd ordered room service. We never go out for dinner, well, maybe not never, but rarely. We are tired at the end of a work day and like to tuck ourselves away from the world. But we'd seen the menu, which had actual choices for vegetarians, and the pub itself was cool. So there we sat.

There were two staff on when we arrived. A man, maybe in his later 40s and a woman in her mid twenties. The man was clearly the person in power, we never found out if he was the supervisor or if he was the kind of guy who just assumed power, then used it, then abused it. He was horrid to her, passive aggressive and critical, making her work life hell.

She was serving us and at one point I asked for some more hot water for my tea. She did this, willingly and brought it back to me, telling me to just ask when I wanted more. He walked by looked in my teapot and made a comment that she hadn't filled it properly and grabbed the tea pot and went and got more water, filling it to the point of being too full. I told him it was now too full and he brushed that away saying that I'd be find with it.

At one point he came behind her as she was working and poked her from behind under the back of her arm pits. She was startled and pulled away. He did it all 'laughing' because he was 'such fun.' Then another staff came on a young man around the age of the young woman. The waiter started 'bantering' with him saying that some other staff in the hotel had started dressing like a 'ho' in order to get his attention, he was clearly flustered and embarrassed but the older waiter didn't stop he went on in this vein about this 'ho' of a woman.

He touched the male waiter too, he came over to him, spread his hand wide and laid it on his shoulder such that it wrapped around the young man's shoulder and his middle finger touched the bare skin of the waiter's neck. He didn't belittle the young man in the same way as he did the young woman, but it was clear he was the Alpha waiter.

We didn't know what to do.

But it was clear that he didn't care that we saw, he expected and anticipated our either indifference or our silence. He was free to prey in public view.

After we left Joe and I were determined to do something.

The following day we made an appointment to speak to the manager. She agreed to meet with us first thing in the morning and we sat down and gave her a full accounting. She looked shocked. But she listened hard. She promised that action would be taken.

We need to ensure that those who abuse others can't count on public silence. It doesn't matter that he's not a movie mogul, it matters that he created a toxic and harassing environment around him.

I am not powerless.

Neither are you.

3 comments:

clairesmum said...

Not exactly the quiet dinner you were hoping for. I'm glad that you and Joe had the time in the morning to take to the manager. Bullies are so skilled at doing what they do without witnesses...and practiced bullies like this man seem to enjoy the additional risk/reward of humiliating individuals in front of a group with relative impunity. Touching someone else is NEVER ok in the context of work settings. (well, the obvious exceptions such as medical and child care. rules exist there, too.)

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Many people who don't speak up are now enabled by their cellphones to take video, but it is rare to find people like you willing to speak to management in defense of people who have to tolerate an abusive situation because it is always just under the line for them to report it, and need the job.

Thank you, for them. Thank you, for others like them.

Girl on wheels said...

Having been in a very similar situation as that waitress, thank you so much to you and Joe for speaking up on the behalf of both her and the young waiter. It is a horrible situation to be in, to desperately need that job and to be unable to rock the boat. It’s a sad fact that it’s not an uncommon situation, especially in service industry jobs. It’s been my experience that the managers often really don’t care about bullying/harassment going on within the staff as long as the customers are happy. That attitude causes a toxic work environment in which the more senior staff make the junior staff members work lives hell. I hope the manager in this case is different, but having a complaint from customers will help those junior staff out.