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These Ladies Have A Different Kind Of Stockholm Syndrome

, , , , | Right | January 12, 2022

I work at a Christian summer camp. Apart from the youth groups that come to camp, we also have camping grounds and cabins, hostel rooms, and a small kiosk and café. This is not a fancy place; you can get a cup of coffee and homemade pastries for a bargain. If there is a camp going on and you call ahead, we can serve lunch. We also serve sandwiches and ice cream, but that’s it.

The area is what we in Sweden call “fäbodvall”. In the olden times, it used to be a summer settlement where people sent their cattle to pasture and built little cottages. Nowadays, it’s a mixture of summer cottages for the locals, passed down through generations, and summer cottages for fancy rich people who think it’s cute to have a picturesque summer cottage in the country by a lake but still expect all the service they can get in the city.

So, here I am, seventeen years old, just finishing cleaning up after the camp kids’ lunch, when a group of three very well-dressed ladies walks into the yard. I can see that they’re not locals, but we have a few people due to check into a cabin, so I grab my binder and go out to greet them.

Me: “Hello, welcome to [Camp]. Are you checking in?”

Lady #1: “No, we just thought we’d have some lunch.”

Me: “Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t get a note. Did you call ahead?”

Lady #1: “No, we did not. This is advertised as a restaurant, is it not?”

Me: “Well, technically, it’s advertised as a café. But if you want lunch, we still have some left over from the camp kids. Today, it’s chicken pie, which should still be warm, and a tomato salad. It’s actually my favourite and it’s very good. It’s the cook’s own recipe. Otherwise, we have home-baked pastries and sandwiches.”

Lady #2: “We certainly don’t want to be served leftovers. This is such a disappointment.”

[Lady #1] and [Lady #2] send evil glances to [Lady #3], who I recognize as one of the non-local cottage owners.

Me: “Well, our sandwiches are made fresh from homemade bread. We have a choice of cheese and cheese and ham. The vegetables are homegrown; we have a garden right behind the kitchen.”

Lady #2: “Well, I guess that’ll have to do.”

The ladies take their seats. I put out a pitcher of water, offer them coffee, and proceed to take their order.

Lady #1: “I’m gluten intolerant, so I can’t eat bread, and all your sandwiches look inedible. I’d like a salad instead of a sandwich.”

Me: “Well, we don’t have any salads on the menu, but I guess I could make you one with the same ingredients as the sandwich. Would you like ham and cheese, or just cheese?”

Lady #1: *Sighs* “I guess I’ll have the ham and cheese if you don’t have anything better to offer.”

Lady #2: “I’ll have the same. Where’s the ham from?”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t actually know. It comes from our distributors, but I can ask the cook if—”

Lady #2: *Waves me off* “Never mind. I guess I don’t expect too much from a place like this.”

[Lady #3] comes all the time with her kids to buy ice cream, so I know her, and I can tell how embarrassed she is.

Lady #3: “If you’re making salads for them, you can make one for me, as well. I don’t want to add to your workload.”

Me: “All right, three cheese and ham salads. I’ll be right back.”

We don’t have this salad on the menu. I’ve worked in this kitchen for a while, but I’m not a chef, and as I said earlier, we do not serve salads. I try to do the best with what I have, which is a bunch of homegrown vegetables, which I arrange in lovely little mountains on their plates, and some chopped-up industry cheese and ham (which is all we have because we are not a restaurant) on top. I whip up some dressing to serve on the side and carry out the order to the guests.

[Lady #3] is obviously trying to defuse the situation.

Lady #3: “Oh, thank you, [My Name]. This looks wonderful. Thank you for going to all of this trouble for us.”

Lady #1: *Pokes at the salad* “Excuse me, what is this? It looks disgusting. I asked for ham; this isn’t ham.”

Me: “Sorry, but that’s the ham we have.”

Lady #2: “Pardon me, where is the bread? What place doesn’t serve bread with their salads?”

Me: “I’m sorry, I’ll go get you some bread. That’s one gluten-free and the rest regular, right?”

The guests all confirm. I might be young, but at this time, I’m pretty much in charge of special needs food for the camp kids, and my worst nightmare is someone getting ill from food that I have served them, so I make sure to get a separate basket and butter dish for the gluten-free bread before I carry it all out to serve to my guests.

Me: “Here’s your bread; it’s all homemade. I hope you enjoy it.”

Lady #1: “Excuse me, what is this?”

At this time, there are not a lot of fancy gluten-free mixes available, so we have to do with what we have. The gluten-free bread might not look very fancy, but I did my best.

Me: “That is our gluten-free bread; I made it myself this morning. The camp kids don’t complain.”

Lady #1: “I expect to be served something better than the camp kids. What kind of place is this?”

Me: “I’m sorry, but it’s a camp. Our guests all get served the same thing, whether they’re campers, locals, or other guests. I made an exception for you guys making you salads.”

Lady #2: “This is the worst service I’ve ever had in my life. I want to speak to your manager.”

Me: “Well, he’ll be in tomorrow morning. It’s just me and the cook here right now, and she’ll be leaving in a few minutes for her mid-day break, so I have to start preparing dinner for the camp kids. Was there anything else?”

[Lady #1] and [Lady #2] look like they want to behead me on the spot, but thankfully, [Lady #3] interrupts.

Lady #3: “Oh, my God, I told you that this wasn’t a fancy place! [My Name] did her best to make you happy and all you did was complain. I swear, I can’t take you anywhere. And by the way, [Lady #1], I know you’re not gluten intolerant; you just say that to get special service.”

She turns to me.

Lady #3: “Thank you, [My Name]. We’re really grateful that you went to all that trouble to accommodate us. I’ll make sure to call ahead for lunch the next time I have friends visiting.”

The ladies finished their lunch with no complaints. [Lady #3] tipped well and kept tipping well for the rest of the summer even after her friends had left.

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