John Grindrod: Inconsideration and lame excuses on full display

The large man with the mud-caked work boots sat just a few feet away from me in a McDonald’s in Rio Grande in the far southeastern region of the Heart of It All. Seated with him was a teenage boy and, based on the hand-holding that I spied, the boy’s girlfriend made it a threesome. The man said to the boy, “Listen, you’re 18. Let me tell you what your grandpa told me when I was your age about what needs to be done before applying for a job.”

Although you might have some negative thoughts about eavesdropping, the man’s booming voice was impossible to ignore throughout the open-seating dining area. So, there I sat listening to him pass along several job-seeking tips that he felt still were as suitable now as they were some 30 or so years ago when his father gave them to him.

In between all that advice dispensing, he got up to walk over to the drink dispensers to replenish his soft drink and returned to the table. A bit later, there was another trip by him to the ordering counter for more ketchup and, later, another to use the restroom. Counting the muddy boot tracks he made when he first entered and his three subsequent trips, the floor was an absolute mess, a floor by the way, that an earnest teenage girl with a McDonald’s visor had just mopped in its entirety before they entered.

For me, and I could tell by some turned heads from other diners, the tracks were as hard to ignore as was the advice on what an 18-year-old needs to do before applying for a job. I’m pretty sure others were as cognizant as I was how much of a mess the man was making each time he got up from the table and returned. The tracking was far more than I’ve ever seen in any other restaurant or hotel lobby patronized by those whose collars are blue, and during my work travels I’ve seen the inside of many fast-food establishments and have stayed in several of the more moderately priced hotels while on the road working that have quite a few work-booted men who come seeking lodging.

Only when the large man making a mess saw that same young lady who’d mopped the quarry-tile floor less than half an hour before wheel her mop bucket out a few feet away did he say anything to acknowledge the mess he’d made, and, frankly, it was NOT much of an acknowledgment. Whereas a sincere apology beginning with the words “I’m sorry” would have been appropriate, instead, he pointed to the floor and said with a chuckle to her, “I’m a farmer, so this is normal for me. That’ll happen when you aren’t allergic to hard work on wet days.”

True to what I’m pretty sure her training was, you know, that whole “customer-is-always-right” thing, she replied, “That’s OK. I’ll just start in the restroom and then come back here when you’re done.” I think she figured it wouldn’t be prudent to do the re-mopping now in the seating area and then have him lay down another set of tracks when he led his entourage out.

But, and, for me, this is a big “but,” was this situation really unavoidable and OK? Wouldn’t a more considerate farmer who bragged he wasn’t allergic to working in wet fields keep in his work truck a wet towel or perhaps even an old pair of clean sneakers in a box on the floor and either use the towel to clean those floor-fouling boots or, better yet, change to the sneakers before entering the restaurant?

As for the old pair of sneakers, trust me that, while many guys have only one Sunday-go-to-meetin’ pair of shoes, my fellow tribal members and I tend to hang on to virtually every pair of old sneakers we buy unless the soles disengage from the rest of the shoes!

Finally, they departed, with Mr. Farmer leaving a final trail of tracks, and the girl returned to recommence her mopping. As I peered around the area to nearby tables, I saw sympathetic looks as she began her dance with the mop, using proper form in swinging her partner from side to side, thereby eradicating the muddy marks that surely were avoidable.

If there are indeed statements we make with pretty much most of our actions, perhaps, in this case, the statement might be that the true meaning of where we score on the consideration scale isn’t really how we act when we’re with those we know. Rather, I think it may very well be how we treat others we encounter that we don’t know.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected].