At what cost?
“It’s a 45-minute wait,” stated Chris, the maitre d’ at the well-known downtown restaurant.
With dear friends Karen and Charles, we’d seen CS Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” on stage. We wanted to enjoy a meal together before Don and I left for the East Coast that night.
“Is there any way to speed that up?” I asked. “We have a flight to catch.”
“Not without some green paper. Even then it will be at least 30 minutes.”
Green paper … what’s he talking about? Oohhh …
I pulled a $20 out of my wallet and handed it to Chris. He unobtrusively palmed the bill and looked me in the eye.
“What time do you need to be out of here?”
“Let’s see.” I glanced at my watch. “We need to leave here within 90 minutes to catch our red-eye.”
Not more than ten minutes later he indicated we should walk to the back of the restaurant so no one would see we were being seated before them. From there Chris directed us to a nice table, handed us menus, and wished us a good dinner.
I’d never tipped someone to receive precedence over other customers before. A sense of power crept over me. “Yes!” I had accomplished what we needed.
That night I was troubled. Yes, I had accomplished the goal of getting faster service to accommodate our timing need. But was it right? Was it just? Would Jesus have bribed the maitre d’? Did both the maitre d’ and I take advantage of each other? He wanted cash. I wanted to eat. But in our exchange, did we trample on others’ rights or fair treatment?
On our cruise, I shared these thoughts with Don, my brother and sister-in-law. Arnold reminded us of a song from the 70’s or 80’s.
“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
I could not deceive myself (or anyone else) that I had guarded each man/woman’s dignity and pride by my actions. From a time perspective, our need seemed greater than others’ that night. But did that justify my actions? At what cost was my power play?
In all honesty, I can’t say I will never do this again. But I hope that next time I will think more about others’ dignity and just treatment before I take an action that benefits me at the expense of others.