Respectful Insolence

Is your life worth $24 at Waffle House?

I forgot to mention on Friday that I’m currently in Chicago attending the ASCO meeting. It’s a lot of fun seeing the latest that science-based medicine has to offer, although ASCO isn’t always my cup of tea. The reason is that it’s very heavily based in medical oncology and chemotherapy, and there aren’t a lot of surgical talks. Another reason is that it’s a clinical meeting; so there isn’t a lot of basic science. Still, there’s plenty to keep my busy, and my blogging may be irregular over the next couple of days. Worse comes to worst, I’ll post a “best of Orac” or two. Nothing short of death or dismemberment can stop the verbiage, you know.

In the meantime, as I wander around McCormick Place in search of the latest and greatest clinical cancer science, I stand in awe of this Waffle House employee. Some kids tried to skip out without paying the bill when he was standing outside of the restaurant. The kids tried to run another worker down. They hit this guy, but he managed to hold onto the hood of the car. What happened next is amazing and reported here.

I don’t know if this guy had a choice or not, but one thing I do know: $24 and change isn’t worth risking your life for.

Comments

  1. #1 daedalus2u
    June 6, 2010

    I think it isn’t about the money, it is about your place in the social power hierarchy.

    You notice that the guy who did this didn’t have a girlfriend by his side. If you are near the bottom and don’t have a girlfriend because you are near the bottom, anything that moves you up is worth doing, even at significant risk of death.

    If you don’t have a girlfriend, then doing risky stuff that might get you one is worth a chance of dying.

    I bet he will get job offers and offers from girls wanting to be his girlfriend. I imagine them thinking “wow! If he will risk his life for $24, what will he do for me?”

    Of course it is only a certain type of naïve girl (think Bristol Palin like) who falls for stuff like that. Mature women on the other hand will think “if he does crazy shit like that for $24 (that wasn’t even his), what other crazy shit is he going to do?”

  2. #2 Clayton
    June 6, 2010

    I am confused, I thought chicago was north of the IHOP-Waffle house line? Then I watched the video. Oh.. oh. Reminds me of the movie “Better off dead”, ‘Where’s my two dollars!!!!!!!!!”

  3. #3 Denice Walter
    June 6, 2010

    OT(but are unintentional laughs from a professional comic ever *truely* OT here?):Towards the end of Friday’s show,Maher derides AGW doubters(whose arguments are pulled from, er… thin air)to those of AGW supporters which are derived from *science*, *experiments*, from people who *study* and *get degrees*(emphasis, his);similarly,-irony of ironies- he maintains(paraphrase):you can’t decide issues like this based on debate or popularity.Actually,he sounded like some of *his own* critics when he spouts his alt med, germ theory denialism,or food woo: but no transfer or self-evaluation skills apparent to me.

  4. #4 blf
    June 6, 2010

    What impressed me (judging from the recorded phonecall) is how calm Mr McKnight(?) seemed to be after the car finally stopped. Plus that he had the presence of mind to put his mobile into speakerphone-mode. (And, judging by the interview, he seems to have a rather wry sense of humour.)

    I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume that he assumed the car would stop as soon as he was on the bonnet. Whether or not getting onto the bonnet in the first place was wise (even with that assumption) is perhaps another matter.

  5. #5 JohnV
    June 6, 2010

    We went through this in grad school when we (grad students) were informed that it was our responsibility to confront people we saw in the building if we didn’t recognize them.

    Yeah guys, I work 60+ hours a week for $15,000 a year pretty sure if someone shows up with nefarious intent I’m going to have to work hard to not help them out much less stop them.

  6. #6 realinterrobang
    June 6, 2010

    My mind is blown…

    …mostly by the evidence that people really do talk like that. Woah, what an accent. I keep thinking people only talk like that in movies featuring derrogatorily stereotyped characters.

    It’s also so far from my native dialect that it’s right on the far edge of comprehensibility to me. I’m from southwestern Ontario, Canada, and the closest American accent to ours is southern California, for odd historiocultural reasons I won’t get into here.

  7. #7 Jerry
    June 6, 2010

    I got severely beaten at a waffle house in KC. I didn’t start it but I was defensive about some weird guy that was yelling at me the entire time I was in there eating with a friend. For some reason he kept yelling at me from down in the last booth and he even walked by our table a snarled at us. I even said something to the waitress that he was yelling something at me.
    Anyhow, I was just in town visiting and I gave him the finger on my way out, he jumped up and ran out into the parking lot and started beating on me. Caused severe damage to my eye that still blurs my vision now some twenty years later.
    I suspect he was on meth or something and just looking for trouble.
    Bottom line is, those late night eateries, especially small out of the way places are not safe to go to.

  8. #8 K
    June 6, 2010

    daedalus2u

    Wow, there are some leaps. The guy didn’t have a girlfriend standing next to him in the interview (why would he?), therefore he doesn’t have a girlfriend, therefore he’s at the bottom of the social hierarchy, therefore he’s desperate to move up?

  9. #9 Ace of Sevens
    June 6, 2010

    Girlfriend or not, working at the waffle house puts him pretty low.

  10. #10 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 6, 2010

    @Ace of Sevens: So let me get this straight – someone who works at a diner is inferior to others? Does that apply to all cooks, busboys, and waitresses, or only those who work at Waffle House?

  11. #11 David N. Brown
    June 6, 2010

    When I saw the headline, I expected something to do with the show “Dead Like Me”.

  12. #12 shawmutt
    June 6, 2010

    Waffle House is by far the worst restaurant I have ever been in. I don’t know if they actively recruit prison ex-cons for their waitstaff, but it certainly seems so. Their food is so terrible–I think they use their pancakes and waffles to clean off the tables, then throw them on a plate ready to serve. I’m shocked they are still in business, but not shocked by the news story–pretty typical of the patronage and staff.

  13. #13 Ace of Sevens
    June 6, 2010

    @ Mephistophelese Are you seriously trying to argue that working at Waffle House is either prestigious or has no effect on one’s social status? Actually, I disagree with Daedalus here. It’s not about gaining social status per se, but about not losing it. It’s the principle that you can’t let some kid make you into a punk. Or do you have another explanation why people (especially men) will risk their lives in stick-ups and such rather than hand whatever over.

  14. #14 Prudence
    June 6, 2010

    @”Ace”, only tacky people look down on service staff, but thanks for confirming your status.

    And I just hope Waffle House gives this brave if daft guy free food for life- or, you know, until his cholesterol-laden heart explodes.

  15. #15 kb
    June 6, 2010

    $24 isn’t that much money, but if you show you’re willing to jump on someone’s car if they try to skip out, then you might save hundreds in scaring other people away from doing it. Although it sounds like he got hit by the car, and taking a ride on the hood wasn’t exactly a choice.

    It’s also the principle of the thing. A few snotty teenagers who probably had the money shouldn’t cheat the low-paid cooks and waitstaff who might have families to provide for. It makes you a pretty big jerk to do that and then endanger people with your car.

  16. #16 LW
    June 6, 2010

    It doesn’t sound like he jumped on the hood. It sounds like he and his friend tried to stop the car by getting in front of it while it was still moving slowly. That is a dangerous thing to do, but when things are happening fast, it might not seem so. Who would think these thugs would attempt first degree murder over $24?

    But they hit him and knocked him on the hood, and were still accelerating in an attempt to murder his friend. Under the circumstances, given the choice of hanging on or jumping off and hoping not to be hurt too badly hitting the concrete at high speed), hanging on doesn’t sound like an unreasonable choice.

  17. #17 Jim Thomerson
    June 6, 2010

    There have been a couple of somewhat similar small robbery incidents in the Austin, TX, area in the past year or so. In both cases the employees were fired for interfering. In one case the employee went after and caught a purse snatcher. Don’t recall details on the other incident. I hope this guy and his friend don’t lose their jobs as a result of their actions.

  18. #18 DLC
    June 6, 2010

    First, he wasn’t working at the waffle house, he was visiting the establishment with a friend, when the youths ran out and the brouhaha ensued. Second, nobody knows if the fellow who was on the hood of the car is married, dating or anything, as the report doesn’t say, so you’re assuming facts not in evidence. People do things like this because the believe they have no choice in it. It all seems so straightforward at the time it’s happening.

  19. #19 grenouille
    June 6, 2010

    @#6
    My mind is blown…

    …mostly by the evidence that people really do talk like that. Woah, what an accent. I keep thinking people only talk like that in movies featuring derrogatorily stereotyped characters.

    Well, I grew up in a state where people sound exactly like that. I even went to college in Nashville. His accent made me kinda homesick, actually.

    Now I live in Ontario and have to get used to the fact that people sound like Strange Brew. It’s all perspective.

  20. #20 grenouille
    June 6, 2010

    darn HTML. Mine starts at Well,

  21. #21 Dianne
    June 6, 2010

    You’re wandering around here too? Are you presenting anything? I’ll go to your talk and ask planted questions if you’ll tell me what question you want asked.

  22. #22 Ace of Sevens
    June 6, 2010

    @Prudence, thank you for twisting my words again. The question isn’t what I think. The guy doesn’t know me and doesn’t care what I think. You are confusing is and ought.

    I agree it seems that he didn’t jump on the car on purpose (and the story does call him a restaurant worker, so we was apparently an employee), but machismo can’t be dismissed out of hand simply because it shouldn’t exist.

  23. #23 The Panic Man
    June 6, 2010

    daedalus2u and Ace, go to Hell and take your elitism with you.

  24. #24 Azkyroth
    June 7, 2010

    I bet he will get job offers and offers from girls wanting to be his girlfriend. I imagine them thinking “wow! If he will risk his life for $24, what will he do for me?”

    Of course it is only a certain type of naïve girl (think Bristol Palin like) who falls for stuff like that. Mature women on the other hand will think “if he does crazy shit like that for $24 (that wasn’t even his), what other crazy shit is he going to do?”

    It’ll be interesting to follow up on this post subsequent to you popping your head out of the evo-phren and actually talking to a girl.

  25. #25 Susan Ferguson
    June 7, 2010

    I guess a lot of people on this thread haven’t worked in a retail job before. I have worked in retail and was robbed a couple of times. The first time it was by a couple who did the old trick of one person distracting the store clerk at the back of the store while the other rifles through the cash register. When I found out what happened, I was pissed, I felt like a complete fool, I wanted to hunt them down and hurt them. The other time I was robbed at knifepoint, I did exactly what the robber wanted I gave him the cash etc, which is what we were trained to do, not risk our lives for the cash, but I was angry, I wanted the guy captured and punished. I had fantasies of smashing the guy’s head in with the cash drawer for days afterwards. I don’t think what this guy did had anything to do with social status, or impressing girlfriends, it’s just a gut reaction to being robbed, you feel violated, you want to find the person and punish them. It may not be right, but it’s human nature, the guy has my total sympathy.

  26. #26 Sid Offit
    June 7, 2010

    Orac, can’t you outer space robot types just use your advanced technology to shut off car engines? Anyway you need to do a piece on this Sanjay Gupta guy terrifying America with the Toxic Childhood show he’s been running all weekend. He doesn’t seem to understand the does makes the poison.

    Daedalus2u

    I don’t even know where to start.

  27. #27 Sid Offit
    June 7, 2010

    Dose. I meant dose.

  28. #28 AJ
    June 7, 2010

    Orac you made me sit thru an ad for a bunch of bible thumping God botherers to see that….I feel abused.

    That guy showed remarkable presence of mind to call 911 and make that call…. My hat goes off to him. His calmness at the end of it all was astounding…..

  29. #29 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    First, he wasn’t working at the waffle house, he was visiting the establishment with a friend, when the youths ran out and the brouhaha ensued.

    The story says he works for Waffle House. Do you have another source of information that we are unaware of?

  30. #30 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 7, 2010

    I don’t consider working at Waffle House to be a particularly high prestige job. However, the whole “this was his way to move up the social ladder” certainly smacks of “for their kind life is cheap.”

  31. #31 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 7, 2010

    The standard message you get in these circumstances is “don’t risk your life for (whatever) – stuff can be replaced, but your life can’t.” This, IMHO, has been taken to extremes in some areas and created a culture of victimhood. Mugged in the street? Don’t fight back, just hand over your wallet. Kidnapped? Don’t fight back, cooperate and wait for the ransom. Someone pulls out a weapon on a plane? Don’t fight back…

    Or in this case, if you witness a crime try to take notes so you can provide the police with information. Assuming the police are called, and assuming the police care enough about a $24 non-violent robbery, and assuming your evidence is good enough to get a conviction.

    As I see it, there are two things wrong with the standard advice. First you decrease the risk of committing crimes, which will lead to more crimes. In my more facetious moments I wonder if you could be a successful mugger by holding up a sign saying “hand over your wallet and nobody gets hurt”.

    Second, you don’t know that your initial assessment is in fact the intended final result. What you think might be a robbery may turn into a rape when you move to a more secluded location. Kidnapping may turn into torture and murder. We all know about hijacking.

  32. #32 Dianne
    June 7, 2010

    Off topic bit of gossip: The DSM-V is probably coming out soon and may narrow the definition of autism. This will lower the number of new diagnoses. What will the anti-vax crowd make of the decrease?

  33. #33 JohnV
    June 7, 2010

    @Dianne

    No doubt they will say something like “Big pharma covering their tracks.”

  34. #34 Todd W.
    June 7, 2010

    @Dianne and JohnV

    Or, they may claim that the potential reduction in cases will be due to the removal of thimerosal.

  35. #35 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    Or, they may claim that the potential reduction in cases will be due to the removal of thimerosal.

    I’d almost bet money on this.

  36. #36 Poogles
    June 7, 2010

    “Or, they may claim that the potential reduction in cases will be due to the removal of thimerosal.”

    That’s my bet

  37. #37 Dianne
    June 7, 2010

    My guess was that they’d go with “see, decreasing the vaccine rate worked!” Simply saying it was the thimerosal removal leaves them open to the argument that then they should be satisfied with the effect and not worry further about the non-thimerosal containing vaccines currently in use.

  38. #38 Dianne
    June 7, 2010

    My guess was that they’d go with “see, decreasing the vaccine rate worked!” Simply saying it was the thimerosal removal leaves them open to the argument that then they should be satisfied with the effect and not worry further about the non-thimerosal containing vaccines currently in use.

  39. #39 Todd W.
    June 7, 2010

    @Dianne

    Yeah, that was my second thought.

  40. #40 LibraryGryffon
    June 7, 2010

    What I found most disturbing about the whole incident was the driver of the car seemed to think that a simple apology would make it all go away.

  41. #41 Mike Crichton
    June 7, 2010

    There’s actually a “good” reason for “we will fire any employee who attempts to play hero” policies: Liability. Having those policies keeps the employer’s insurance costs down, as they don’t have to pay for the injury of any employee who gets hurt while violating company policy. More importantly, it also protects them from lawsuits from crime victims. If one person getting mugged in the parking lot gets helped, and another doesn’t, the one who doesn’t can sue. If you have a policy that your employees aren’t allowed to help _any_ mugging victim, than the franchise is relatively safe. Yes, it’s fucked up, but they’re not being dicks for the sack of dickishness, there are financial reasons for it.

  42. #42 wfjag
    June 8, 2010

    “More importantly, it also protects them from lawsuits from crime victims. If one person getting mugged in the parking lot gets helped, and another doesn’t, the one who doesn’t can sue. If you have a policy that your employees aren’t allowed to help _any_ mugging victim, than the franchise is relatively safe.”

    Actually, in most states, that is incorrect. If someone gets mugged in the parking lot (or lobby, etc.), then the business, and nearby businesses, are on notice that there is a crime problem. As businesses are at least implicitedly inviting customers to their premises, they are also at least implicitedly representing that their premises, and reasonable means of ingress and egress, are safe. So, if someone gets mugged on the premises, or parking lot, etc., to avoid liability the business must do something like hire a guard (who carries more than a cell phone). Of course, if the guard then tazes or shoots someone, or fails to protect a customer — then — there’s liability for that reason. Financially successful trial attorneys give large amounts to people seeking election as judges. Most of the trial lawyers I know would love to discover that a business has a written policy instructing employees not to help people who are crime victims — if you were sitting on a jury and looking at the victim (now plaintiff), how would you feel about a business that had that policy? Financially successful trial attorneys are not stupid or the sort who waste their money.

  43. #43 Ace of Sevens
    June 9, 2010

    I think a couple people are making a lot of assumptions. I’m coming at this from the point of view of someone who’s worked some retail jobs and couldn’t stand the thought of some shoplifter making us look like fools. Not wanting to be bested has everything to do with social status. You can’t let le-rent criminals beat you.

  44. #44 Deepsix
    June 9, 2010

    This Waffle House is right down the road from where I work. I am upset that I missed a car speeding down the road with a guy hanging on the hood.

    @6, not everyone in the south has an accent like his – only the people that end up on the news. It must be some universal law of the cosmos that the biggest redneck in the area always gets interviewed.

    @12, I don’t go there often, but I actually like their food. They have the best grilled chicken sandwhich that I’ve ever eaten. I’ve only had one bad experience where I’m sure the cook used 4 sticks of butter and one egg to make my “omlet”.

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