Sometime in the early 1990s, it became popular to answer people with a single word– “Whatever”. I remember being in college and people were suddenly saying, “whatever” in a sarcastic tone of voice when someone said or did something stupid or rude. This morning, I’m reminded of that as I just finished watching Dr. Les Carter’s latest video about the one word all narcissists hate. Can you guess what it is?
Dr. Carter is right. Narcissists hate to be dismissed by the word “whatever.” Frankly, it’s not a word I use very often, except to people who really deserve it. I used it the other day, when someone was giving me grief over sharing a Rolling Stone article about Donald Trump. She basically said that Rolling Stone isn’t a valid source of information about the world. I responded that it’s a legitimate magazine with real journalists. When the teasing continued, I wrote “Whatever.” Fortunately, this friend isn’t a narcissist. However, there have been times when I really upset someone because I said “whatever” to them.
I was listening to Dr. Carter talk about how narcissists behave– they want you to dance to their tune and jump when they say “jump”– and if you don’t, there’s an implied threat that there will be hell to pay. But if you respond to them like a grey rock, in a bland, detached, unaffected way, it drives them crazy. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, since narcissistic people are infuriating.
Back in October 2013, I wrote on my old blog about the word “whatever” and its significance. Because it was a pretty good post, and includes an anecdote from my past about the use of “whatever”, I’m going to share it again now.
One of my Facebook friends asked what the word “whatever” means in her friends’ hometowns. My friend is presently in Oregon, visiting her husband who is there on business. Her husband said “whatever” to someone out there and they were very offended. My friend and her husband are from the Philadelphia area and in Philly, saying “whatever” is not that rude. I mean, yeah it’s kind of snarky and dismissive, but it’s not the kind of thing that would bring that much offense to most normal people.
The responses to my friend’s query were interesting. Most of her friends said it was a little disrespectful, but not “fuck off and die” territory. A couple of folks commented that it would depend on the tone and the context. One mother said she would wash her kid’s mouth out with soap if she ever heard her say it. Apparently, out on the left coast, “whatever” is highly offensive and actually is akin to saying “fuck off and die”. Someone can correct me if my friend’s impression is wrong.
Anyway, I was suddenly reminded of an incident that occurred back in 1998 or 99… can’t remember exactly when. I was working as a waitress at a nice restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was dinner time and someone in my section had ordered a cheeseburger, an item on the dinner cafe menu, while everyone else was having food off the regular dinner menu. The crappy computer at the restaurant had a course numbering system that usually worked fine. However, for some reason, burgers were not automatically designated second or main courses. You had to enter it manually.
In my haste to take the order, I forgot to designate the burger as a main course; so I had to go back and talk to the chef. I went to the kitchen and explained that I had forgotten to course sequence the cheeseburger and that I wanted to note that it was intended to be a main course. The chef was very rude about it and made some nasty or sarcastic comment to me. I no longer remember what he said, but it was offensive. And I said in response, “whatever”. Actually, given my emotional state in those days, he’s lucky all I said was “whatever”. At that time, I was trying to find the right antidepressant and was even edgier than usual.
Well… the chef got pissed, and complained to the manager that I had been “rude” and disrespectful to him. So she cornered me and bitched me out, which got me really upset. I was pretty non-functional for about an hour. I’m kind of surprised I never got fired from that job, actually… though I was generally a hard and dependable worker. Once I got my meds straightened out, I was a lot more even tempered. For some reason, a couple of the managers actually seemed to like me and kept me around. Also, they were chronically understaffed. Anyone with a high enough tolerance for abuse and decent work ethic could work there as long as they wanted to.
Later, I told my shrinks about what happened. The psychiatrist, who was a bit of an ass and used to patronize me by calling me “kid” and constantly harassed me about my weight, asked me if I had apologized to the chef. And my response was that the chef should have apologized to me. I had made a simple error and immediately went back to fix it. I was polite when I approached him. He got shitty with me first. It wasn’t even like the error was a big deal. All the chef had to do was make a note of it on the order chit, but instead, he decided to start shit with me when neither of us had time for the drama.
My psychologist, whom I suspect was not really all that impressed with the drug pushing psychiatrist, applauded me for being so assertive and said the chef was acting like a prima donna! A couple of years later, his daughter worked at the same restaurant. I’m sure he heard even more horror stories from her.
Restaurant work is hectic and frustrating and, if you work in a nice place, it’s likely you’ll have to deal with egomaniacal chefs who act like assholes… and that chef who was rude to me was a major asshole who thankfully rarely worked on the line because he had been promoted to “executive chef”. I vividly remember the few times he did work on the line and he would throw tantrums that, if you were sitting in a dining area close enough to the kitchen, you could easily hear. He was very unprofessional and would often get weeded because he was out of practice and easily overwhelmed. And when he messed up, he took it out on the staff, who were forced to address him as “sir”. No, I’m not still bitter… 😉
I actually hated that job, but I’m very grateful for the experience. I learned so much there and it did propel me to a better life. I made several good friends working at that restaurant, too. Some of them are still friends today. Indeed, 17 months of misery in fine dining literally changed my life for the better and, I think, made me a much higher quality person. At the very least, I learned to have respect for people who work in the service industry. I will never purposely stiff someone who works as a server, unless their behavior is so egregiously rude and unprofessional that they make it obvious they don’t care if I tip them.
That restaurant experience also gave me a lot of stories… and taught me a bit about fine food and wine. It helped me find a very easy and decently paying job when I moved to South Carolina and needed something that wouldn’t interfere too much with grad school. I ended up working at a country club where I didn’t have to rely on tips, had flexible hours, and they would let me take home leftovers. I also learned to try new things and enjoy really good food instead of processed boxed crap or casual dining chains. I may not be skinny, but at least I get fat on the good stuff.
In 2020, I still have a lot of friends from that restaurant job. Some of them are chefs. Not all chefs are assholes, but restaurant work is a stressful job which can lead to some bad habits like smoking and drinking way too much. The chef who was rude to me had worked his way up to executive status, so he was no longer used to expediting. I always hated it when he had to work, because he would often throw tantrums that involved yelling, screaming, and occasionally throwing things. He’d had to work that night because one of the regular chefs got sick and needed to take the night off. The executive chef was pissed off that he had to work as a lowly expeditor, and he took his angst out on me.
Incidentally, the chef who called in sick is still a friend of mine. He was one of my favorite chefs to work with back in those days, because although he did occasionally throw the odd tantrum, he didn’t smoke or drink and very rarely fucked things up. He was also very funny. At the time, he had a mohawk, and he enjoyed my raunchy sense of humor. I still like him today, although it looks like he’s now a manager, rather than a chef.
I recently read that the restaurant where this happened, which had opened in 1980 and had once employed my sister back in its earliest days, closed for good just a couple of weeks ago. The restaurant that existed during my employment there actually ceased to exist in 2009. The original owners sold it to another local chef. The “new” owner was never able to get the restaurant to the level it was back in its heyday. So now he’s going to start over, and turn that restaurant into an Italian eatery. Williamsburg, Virginia actually has a number of Italian restaurants… but this new place will have a lower price point and be more family friendly. It will also have a retail side. We’ll see how it turns out and, if indeed, it survives the COVID-19 nightmare.
As I posted on my travel blog– which is now more of a German social isolation lifestyle blog– I’m picking up new skills every day.