Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Goodbye, Randy

My best friend's father, Randy Pees, died over the weekend. He had a rough life, but, as I see it, a nice enough ending: He played with his grandchildren fulltime, and died in his sleep. Personally, I couldn't ask for anything better.

He and I didn't get along, due to my brazen jackassery as a teen, but later in life made amends, if not friends. On one occasion, he, Bill (his son, my aforementioned best friend), I, and my daughter, met for lunch at a nice Italian restaurant, and had a swell time. I never saw him after that meal, and compared to how things could have been between us, I consider us well quit.

He was a lawyer, and debated as such with damn near anyone who crossed him. Despite our passive-agressive antagonism to each other, I payed attention to some of the things he said. He was not fond of telephone harassment, getting billed by service providers who failed to provide their service, working for The Man, or restaurant staff who dropped the ball.

Here are two anecdotes of Randy in prime form, one I witnessed, one recounted to me:


I was at the Pees house, probably playing Super NES with the gang, and Randy was talking to a Sears bill collector on the phone, and they appeared to me to be calling to demand money for a disputed charge. I only heard one side of the conversation, and it progressed thusly:

"I told you guys not to call any more, and here you are calling again. That's harassment."
"It isn't?! Are you a lawyer?"
"Well I am a lawyer, and I know what harassment is."
"Your supervisor? Sure, let me talk to more assholes from Sears!"

Bringing the veiled threat of a lawsuit against a $5/hour telephone flunky always brings out the best in people. A question worth asking here is: Why do retail companies employ people whose job it is to break the law?

Tee Jays

This one was recounted to me by Bill.

Randy takes his son, Bill, out to eat late one night to the local 24-hour Tee Jays. They were unexpectedly busy, had a minimal staff, but for some reason kept seating people that they wouldn't be able to serve any time soon. The restaurant had plenty of chairs, but only one waitress, Martha. The waitress was clearly in over her head, and no executive decision was made to stop the madness by getting more help in the store, or refusing service, or even suggesting that it may be an hour after you're seated before your meal comes.

Randy and Bill walked in, and were cheerfully greeted and seated, and no mention was made of the current staff/customer ratio problem. They chatted for a while, and even though it seemed a good long while before their order was taken, they didn't think much of it. After a substantial wait after placing the order, their food finally came. Among other issues with the food, Randy's water had a sizeable piece of trash in it, clearly visible. A casual observer would have no difficulty spotting this, much less an experienced waitress, part of whose job it is to declare product fit to consume before delivering it.

Randy ate his food and avoided his water. The waitress never returned to check on them, another standard job function of serving staff. Eventually she returned to place the bill on the table, and scoot away hurriedly. Randy went up to the register to pay, and Martha was there to take his money.

R "Busy night?"
M "Oh, yeah, it was terrible.."
[Other chitchat, putting Martha at ease.]
R "Do you have any kids, Martha?"
M "Why yes, I have..."
R "Well that's a shame, cause people like you oughtn't have the right to breed!"
[Stunned silence, followed by pitiful, mousy reply]
M "..but, sir,... I was the only one on the floor."

Shock and awe indeed. The argument can be made that Martha was not at fault, being too overwhelmed trying to help too many people. I counter that she should have put her foot down and demanded a manager take corrective action when things started to get out of control. It may have been greed at a potential wealth of tips, an inexperienced manager who didn't know what to do in an emergency, or, likely, no manager in the store since it was so late at night. I know at least one restaurant, Denny's, that runs this way -- which is an anecdote of it's own, but I'll save that until later. No matter what else, nothing excuses bringing someone contaminated food; you could kill someone that way.

There was more than self-righteous rage to Randy. He loved his kids and grandkids, he overcame an alcohol addiction, he found it in his heart to make amends with me, the troublemaking teen. I have no complaints.

So long, Randy, we hardly knew ye.

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