Respecting the help

I'm reminded today of the approximate Dave Barry quote:

A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)
We are approaching Christmas, and the Obama family is soon to head off to Hawaii. A couple of commentators noted that "Ronald Reagan spent every Christmas in D.C. so the Secret Service agents could be close to their families." and I wondered how true that actually was.

It turns out to be not 100% true but pretty close. From the Los Angeles Times in December 1988:

Twenty-eight days before they will make it their permanent address, President and Mrs. Reagan moved into their $2.5-million Bel-Air [Los Angeles] home Friday.
They are spending their first Christmas out of the White House since they moved into it on Jan. 20, 1981.
Reagan was based in California for most of his life, moving there from his Illinois birthplace at the age of 26. He would usually fly back to California shortly after Christmas, presumably because the SoCal weather in December was orders of magnitude more pleasant than in D.C., but it seems that he really did care about the Secret Service agents who protected him 24/7 (and were fully prepared to take a bullet for him.)

For the record, this isn't a particular criticism of Obama - despite Hawaii being a long way from D.C., it's a rather nice place to spend Christmas, and standing on Oahu beaches must be far preferable to the cold winds and snow of D.C. for Obama's Secret Service detail. Rather, it's a confirmation of Barry's assertion. Reagan had his flaws, Lord knows, but really cared about individual people. Apparently Bill Clinton was also congenial with his agents - Clinton's flaws are better documented than Reagan's, but even his detractors can't deny that he was genuinely interested in people. Barbara Olson, unapproved Hillary biographer, noted that at college Bill would sit down at the "black" dining table and engage its occupants in conversation despite being painfully white.

America is generally a better place to observe this behaviour than the UK, since an American table server's employment and income is much more closely tied to accepting abuse from customers. However, given the preponderance of eating out in the USA compared to the UK, the percentage of the population who have waited tables is correspondingly higher, so people are generally more sympathetic to waiting staff in remembrance of their own time running around a restaurant. In my experience, seeing people gratuitously abusing waiting or takeout staff is significantly more common in the UK - and seems to match an unusual income split where it's either the very well-off or the relatively poor who are more likely to be the abusers.

In any case, abusing or ignoring the help is a very telling mark of a person. It tells you an awful lot about their inner personality; ignore this information at your peril.

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