LESLIE CRISS: Operating an eatery tests the manners our mama taught us

By Leslie Criss

“Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts.”
– Abel Stevens

“It all comes back to the basic. Serve customers the best-tasting food at a good value in a clean, comfortable restaurant, and they’ll keep coming back.”
– Dave Thomas

“Love, like a chicken salad a restaurant has, must be taken with blind faith or it loses its flavor.”
– Helen Rowland

I heard myself say to someone a week ago that if I could find an investor, I’d open up a restaurant. Stunned does not begin to describe my feelings as those words slid from my mouth.
It was an untruth. I did not mean it. I must have been hallucinating.
My sister and I have been there – in the food service business – done that, and have no wish to return.
Though our two years of owning and operating an eatery called Snickerdoodles near downtown Corinth are fading further and further into our yesterdays, we still remember many of our experiences. And customers.
Both unhappy at the time with our jobs, we decided a hiatus was in order. And since we enjoyed playing restaurant as children, running our own place certainly made sense. Not.
Still and yet, we sallied forth. Doors opened, we walked through and restaurateurs we became.
In retrospect, I applaud the two of us for going into something about which we knew very little. We learned by doing. That does not mean we learned without making mistakes. I’m sure there were plenty of those.
But at least we survived our two years in the business.
One morning a week, we opened Snickerdoodles for the Methodist youth group so they could have breakfast and a time of prayer and fellowship before they went to school.
Some of those same kids would have lunch with us during spring break or summer vacation. Good kids for the most part they were. I remember well a few girls in the group whose wrists were wrapped with a multitude of rubber bracelets branded with WWJD – What would Jesus do?
On more than one occasion, they joined us for lunch and ordered our chicken salad.
My sister came into the kitchen one day looking quite upset and asked me to step into the dining room to witness something appalling.
Because these young women did not like pecans, they’d flung them from their forks all over our floor. I really don’t think that was something Jesus would have done, do you?
Of course, snatching them up by their lovely hair and tossing them from Snickerdoodles seemed un-Jesus-like, as well. So, we just cleaned up after them instead.
Continuing to be kind and respectful when clearly the customer was neither proved difficult. But our mama raised us right, so we kept on smiling and serving.
Even when a woman returned a half-eaten pint of our chicken salad during our busiest time of day and told us it had “a poultry taste.”
Even when a woman sat at our counter, while a line formed of folks waiting to pay, and laughed about paying us with pennies.
Even when a man unfamiliar with red-leaf lettuce demanded his money back because we had served him “rurnt” lettuce.
Looking back, we laugh.
When it happened, not so much.
But at least we lived to tell about it.

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