Signs of the Decline of Civilization at Lunchtime - Restaurants

Signs of the decline of civilization are all around us. I’m concerned with the little ones eroding away the politeness and courtesy that define a civilized society at its roots. There are people who believe it is their right to own earth-rattling loud vehicles regardless of the stress and ear damage they cause to others, pile garbage on their unkempt front lawns despite the property value hit to neighbors, and believe untruths despite proof against their veracity and proof the beliefs are actually doing them harm. These people are perfectly content to share these “rights” with others. I liken it to having an annoying old uncle force us to consume his dinner of rancid meat, moldy coleslaw, and a highball of rotgut. The food is toxic for all of us, but he stands proud with his idiocy, believing he has built up an immunity.

It is the signs of decline that occur at lunchtime which bother me most. To me, lunchtime is a sacrosanct time, a mini-vacation away from obligations. Attacks on lunchtime are direct assaults on civilized society.

Yesterday I was at a favored Tex-Mex restaurant and ordered the simplest of lunch entrees: two tacos. I know it’s not difficult to make tacos. A corn shell, simmered seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes – voila! Tacos. Mine came without the lettuce and tomato with barely enough cheese to constitute a sprinkle. An off day, I thought to myself, as I looked around and noticed there weren’t enough patrons in the establishment to even distract the chef from boredom. Maybe he was texting, tweeting, or surfing on Facebook, I thought, the most likely causes of modern distraction.

I bit into the first taco, and, as crispy shelled tacos often do, it shattered into a pile of corn shell fragments and contents. That is when I noticed I also had no silverware, save for an oversized spoon pitched into my side of refried beans like a tent pole. I scooped the crumbles of ex-taco onto the giant spoon, opened my mouth wide, and managed to stuff the food inside. I finished my lunch, tendered my credit card for payment, and sat for twenty more minutes as my waiter forgot to return my card.

But it is not just the lax attention to food preparation, cutlery, and personal possessions I’ve noticed in recent days. The Monday after Thanksgiving I ordered a roast beef sandwich from the nearby sub shop. I unwrapped the bounty from its paper covering, bit in, and tasted a mouthful of turkey. I don’t want turkey on the Monday after Thanksgiving. I’m tired of turkey, turkey leftovers, and turkey accessories by the Monday after Thanksgiving. Anyone who thinks a guy that orders a beef sandwich on the Monday after Thanksgiving would actually want turkey should be tarred and feathered with white meat and gravy.

As I gagged down a bite of turkey hoagie, a toddler leaped from the adjacent booth, flew past screaming a primitive baby battle chant, landed in front of me, jigged a tiny war dance, and speared a fork into my leg. Then he fell over and started to cry. The mother, oblivious of the proceedings until the whining began, repeated “Come here, Deimos” three times and the toddler disappeared. I next saw the kid trying to push the exit door open wearing an evil grin. The mother said nothing. I assumed she wanted the kid to vanish from her life too.

Perhaps these little deaths of civility are so small and occur so subtly, no one notices when they happen and they get adapted unknowingly. Maybe some people are so bombarded with sensory overload, they can no longer manage all their social responsibilities. Perhaps some rebel against societal norms as an illogical attempt at societal punishment.

Though I see these signs of decline, I still have hope. I returned to the sandwich shop today, ordered roast beef, and received roast beef. My credit card was promptly returned. The child next to me was well behaved. And the sandwich shop didn’t serve me rancid meat or moldy coleslaw.