Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Last night we celebrated my daughter’s seventh birthday as a family by visiting a popular local restaurant. We’ve visited the restaurant several times in the past because it’s family orientated (read: noisy), the waiting staff are friendly and accommodating, and the food always represents good value for money.
I ordered medium rare rump steak (with the requisite mushroom sauce), chips and salad. At $34 (AUD), it was one of the pricier items on the menu, but I’d had it before and it was very good. The restaurant was busy so the food took a while in coming, so when it did arrive I was more than ready to tuck in. Sadly, however, the steak was disappointing — incredibly tough, very fatty, and if it was cooked medium rare I’d hate to see the cook’s well done!
In years past, as a polite, reserved Englishman, I would have sought a myriad of reasons not to complain: internally deciding that it was pointless complaining because they’re busy and I don’t want to make a fuss and I don’t want to wait twenty-five minutes for a replacement and…
But this time I didn’t discuss it internally. I simply said to my wife, “I’m not happy with this steak.” So I got up, found our waitress and, looking her in the eye, simply said it as it was: “I’m sorry, but I’m just not enjoying my steak — it’s tough, fatty, and definitely not medium rare!” And the waitress was very understanding. She took away my plate and my meal was replaced within five minutes. This time, the steak was very good.
I reflected upon what had happened — and how I’d responded — on the journey home. If I hadn’t complained, the restaurant wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make things right and it’s likely I would never have brought the family back. Sometimes, complaining (if it’s done in the right spirit and with a desire to see the best outcome for all parties) is the most gracious thing we can do.
We are human beings. Yes, it is good and right to expect the best from one another. But we can all get it wrong sometimes. Complaining, in the right spirit, can incredibly restorative. Perhaps it’s the word itself that we have a problem with? The word complain is often associated with those who don’t have a good word to say about anything. But if we reframe the word, thinking of it instead as openly expressing our disappointment, we create an opportunity for something positive to come from a negative.
Looking for positives in the negatives of life is something depression has been teaching me.
Thanks again, depression. Your lessons have been invaluable.