What’s Wrong with People? (Plastic Straw Edition)

Since I’ve been in Finland, I don’t think I’ve seen a plastic straw. People don’t seem to use them. When you go out to eat, they don’t automatically give you one. There are no straw dispensers where you can take one. Maybe you can ask for one, but I’m fine sipping my beverage straight from the rim of the cup. This isn’t a get-it-to-go, eat-in-your-car culture though. People sit down in the restaurant, or take it home, so they can enjoy it in peace.

This of course contrasts with the norm, as I remember it, in the United States. Straws were everywhere. Past tense, apparently. I had heard that Starbucks was phasing them out, but apparently McDonald’s in following suit. Which leads to our next tale of cultural horror: the man who assaulted a fast food worker because he didn’t get a straw.

The video went viral, so if you haven’t seen it already it’s easy to find. Florida Man (of course) didn’t get a straw. He was apparently advised that they no longer hand them out automatically, and you have to ask. This threw him into a rage. He reached over the counter, grabbed the worker by the front of her shirt, and attempted to pull her over the counter.

What’s Wrong with People?

Now, we’ll stop here and contemplate the idea that somehow this man felt this was a reasonable response to having to ask for a straw. The culture horror deepens, of course, as her coworkers stand there and do nothing. A very American response, not wanting to get involved. If you intervene, will you get hurt? Is the guy going to pull out a gun? Will you be fired for trying to break up a fight? Will you get sued by the guy if you lay a hand on him, even if it’s to stop him from assaulting a woman you work with?

In the United States, these are all valid concerns. That’s messed up.

When the man doesn’t let go, the woman begins punching him in the head. That’s when some coworkers step in. Maybe they were afraid she’d sue for not helping her. Perhaps they felt it was safe, since she was wailing on him already. The man finally lets go, just as a manager walks up. And the cultural horror deepens, because what does the manager do? Does he tell the attacker to get out of the store? Does he call 911? No. He tells the employee who was just grabbed to go in the back, and he checks the status of the man’s order.

Oh, you just grabbed one of my employees? Let me see if your food is ready.

I Can Hear the Arguments

Apparently the woman did go in the back and call 911. The man was eventually asked to leave, but he kicked another employee in her stomach on his way out. He was arrested a few hours later, not as a result of the woman calling the police, but because he called them to say the McDonald’s workers attacked him. Deranged.

Did I mention that the attacker was white and the women he assaulted were black? Did I have to? I can hear the arguments that she’s no angel either, because she attempted to defend herself. The customer is always right, and you can’t punch a customer in the face while you’re on the clock just because he grabbed you and tried to drag you across the counter. That’s terrible customer service.

Of course, the employee who got grabbed has been suspended. She’s retained a lawyer and is suing McDonald’s for not defending her. She got attacked at work, no one helped her, the manager chastised her and suspended her, and she had to call 911 herself. From what I’ve read, she’s a nursing student. I think it would be lovely if she got enough to help cover some of her tuition.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. She had every right to defend herself. I think the manager should have been fired for the way he responded, not her.

    I will throw out a possibility that the coworkers didn’t initially react because they were in shock. What was happening was so outside their mental models of how things work, they didn’t initially know how to respond or grasp what was happening. I don’t know that that was the case, but it could be a partial explanation.

    I do agree with you, though, in your desire for the employee to win enough to pay her school expenses.

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