Let’s face it — it’s not normally news when a fast-food outlet fires an employee for bad behavior. In my youth, I worked for a national chain drive-thru outlet that had to fire one of my co-workers for going up on the roof one night and chucking eggs at passers-by. This led to an all-hands meeting about the importance of customer service and, er, not going insane or coming to work drunk, by a manager who must have wondered when she signed up to run the teen-age day care center.
One thing we didn’t do is refuse service to anyone, not even if they had no shoes or shirts, and especially not if they were the local police. Those of us who worked night shifts liked the idea that police would drop by occasionally, but in any case we were usually too busy to take political stands, except for the one egg-toss event. An employee at a Texas Whataburger obviously thought otherwise. Excuse me, an ex-employee:
Whataburger has fired a Lewisville employee who refused service to two North Texas police officers Tuesday night.
Milford police officer Cameron Beckham and Strawn police officer Michael Magovern said they had been working traffic control for the 35 Express Project when they decided to stop at a Whataburger in the 100 block of North Stemmons Freeway at about 8 p.m. …
Beckham and Magovern said the employee behind the counter told them he didn’t serve police officers.
“I looked at him and said ‘Are you joking?’ and he said nothing,” Magovern said, adding the employee “just stared at [them].”
The two police officers ate at Dairy Queen instead, which may or may not be an upgrade; I’ve never had a Whataburger, but we did make a few “what-the-hell-is-thats” in that fast-food place. Once Whataburger’s corporate office found out, they ended the promising, potentially award-winning fry-basket career of the employee with the 1,000-inch stare. In a statement released last night, Whataburger apologized, offered a free meal to the two officers and another in-person apology, pronouncing themselves “appalled” at the incident, which certainly is sincerely meant and well delivered.
On one hand, this is probably just another dippy young adult trying to impose Justice in his own little world, but he’s really no more meaningful than my long-lost colleague tossing eggs from the roof. (His brother offered the typical teen response of “he was just joking around.”) Whataburger wasn’t at fault, and they did the right thing by apologizing. To the extent that this measures rising hostility between police and the public, hopefully it serves as a reminder of how not to deal with that situation. Police officers are members of our community as well, not the enemy, and not perfect either. We would all do much better to reach out and communicate with each other rather than see those across the line as a monolithic opponent or enemy.
One final thought: Had this fast-food clerk not gotten himself so spectacularly fired, Hillary Clinton would have made sure Whataburger paid him $15 an hour for that job.