Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You keep using that word "projection"... I do not think you know what it means...

Yesterday, I shared an article on Facebook about nasty things servers in restaurants have encountered.  I read the article with interest, since I was once a server and have vivid memories and deep psychological scars from the experience.  The anecdote that stuck out the most was from a waitress who had worked at the Olive Garden.  I am not a fan of the Olive Garden and, after reading that poor woman's story, I am now even less of a fan today than I was yesterday.

The Olive Garden was running their bottomless pasta bowl promotion.  A very overweight family came in to take advantage of the deal.  With them was their toddler aged daughter, who was dressed in a dirty shirt and a diaper, but was not wearing pants.  After awhile, the waitress noticed the distinct aroma of shit lingering around the table.  She tried to ignore it, but on a return visit, she noticed the toddler pulling turds out of her diaper and dropping them on the floor.

Naturally, the waitress was unable to hide her revulsion.  She pointed out to the mom that the little girl was dropping shit on the floor.  The mother said she knew, and had thoughtfully tried to cover the poop with a napkin, but had only managed to cover it slightly.  And, as any thinking person knows, a napkin will do nothing to cover the stench of feces.

The waitress told her manager, who ended up asking the woman to clean up the mess.  Mom got very irate, apparently thinking that it was not her "job" to clean up her daughter's inappropriately deposited shit.  But, in the end, she cleaned it up; then without taking the time to wash her hands, she tucked in to yet another bowl of pasta.

Now... reading about that experience, in and of itself, would turn me off of Olive Garden.  Especially if I had actually witnessed it at the time it happened.  But I have other reasons for not liking the Olive Garden.

I didn't used to feel like this.  In the early 90s, when the Olive Garden was kind of new, I thought it was a great place to eat.  I remember going there for my birthday one year and really enjoying the experience.  But, what can I say?  Twenty plus years ago, I was a lot younger, less sophisticated, and had simpler and much less expensive tastes.  I have now had better culinary experiences that have broadened my perspective.  I have also spent several years living in Europe, where wait staff is paid decently and you're not simultaneously plied with food and alcohol as the staff rushes you to finish your food and GTFO ASAP.

My disdain for the Olive Garden probably began in 1993, when I visited a location with my cousin and her friends.  As we were finishing the meal, I suddenly got a terrible stomachache that hurt so much that I fainted as I was trying to exit our booth.  I hit the floor pretty hard and, as I was regaining consciousness, heard someone shout "She must be an epileptic!"  I was forced to lie on the floor in the middle of the restaurant and wait for the paramedics, although I did not allow them to take me to the hospital.  I ended up with a rug burn and probably a mild concussion, although I eventually recovered with no lingering ill effects.

I don't know if my stomachache was caused by the food.  I did have one alcoholic drink, but it was a girly ice cream drink.  I certainly wasn't drunk, even though my tolerance for booze was a lot less back then.  Anyway, for a very long time after that fainting incident, I avoided the Olive Garden.

Bill and I finally visited again about ten years later at a location in northern Virginia.  I remember we had a pretty good time at a time when we had little money.  I didn't faint, either.  But they had changed their menu significantly and I was turned off by the endless refills on food.  You'd never know it to look at me, but I'm not someone who wants several helpings unless I ask for them, which rarely happens.  I don't like it when servers are compelled to keep refilling bread, salad, soup, or whatever, especially when I'm having an entree and might also want dessert.  I don't like wasting food.  Moreover, the Olive Garden's bread sticks remind me of glorified hot dog buns.

So I posted the article I linked above with the comment that I used to like the Olive Garden but don't anymore.  An old college friend of mine asked me what made me stop liking the Olive Garden and wondered if the anecdote on Reddit was what made me not want to go there anymore.  I basically explained the reasons I don't like it, which was a briefer version of what I put in this blog post.  His response was this...

Whole lot of angst in there. Maybe you're projecting? Unlimited salad is my appetizer and dessert. The shit on the floor is completely irrelevant.

Okay...  now first of all, there is nothing in my response that even comes close to "psychological projection".  I think a lot of uninformed people trot out this response when someone has an opinion that is contrary to their own.  It's not the first time someone has accused me of projection without actually knowing what projection is.  But, for those who don't know, allow me to offer a definition.

Psychological projection is a defense mechanism all people use in order to deal with unwanted or unpleasant emotions within themselves.  For instance, I might have really insecure feelings about myself.  Deep down, I know I'm insecure and it makes me uncomfortable, so I project those feelings onto another person and accuse them of being "insecure".  I might be a hateful, abusive, inconsiderate person who uses other people, but I'll accuse another person of being that way to take my focus off of my own bad feelings about myself.  I might feel very angry about something, but instead of dealing with that anger rationally, I'll accuse someone else of being angry.  Everybody does this occasionally.  I do it.  You do it.  It's actually a very common and normal defense mechanism.  But simply having a different perspective about something does not equate to "projection".  

I'm not sure how I'm "projecting" by listing what I think are perfectly valid reasons not to enjoy the Olive Garden or similar types of American chain restaurants.  I think the fact that I once fainted in an Olive Garden after eating dinner there is reason enough not to want to ever visit again.  And yet I have been back a few times and given them another chance.  Reading about some kid in a full diaper throwing shit on the floor and knowing that the Olive Garden's policy of offering endless pasta, salad, and soup is one reason cheap, tacky people are attracted to that restaurant is, in my opinion, another good reason to avoid the place.  Not liking being rushed when I go out to eat and having extra food foisted on me while I'm being simultaneously encouraged to hurry up and leave are also good reasons.  I have eaten real Italian food and American style Italian food pales in comparison-- yet another valid reason to dislike the Olive Garden.  None of this has anything to do with projection.

This doesn't mean I won't eat in a chain restaurant, by the way.  I may very well dine at the Olive Garden again.  However, when I do eat food from there and places like it, I prefer to get take out.  That way, I can eat it in peace and at my own pace.  And I won't have to watch or smell some kid dropping their deuces on the floor, or hear them shrieking.  Fair enough?

Perhaps my friend is guilty of projection.  He obviously likes the Olive Garden and, for some reason, seems offended that I don't like it.  So when I post my reasons for not liking the Olive Garden, he implies that I have a psychological "issue".  Part of psychological projection has to do with blame shifting.  I'm being "unreasonable" because I don't want to give the Olive Garden another chance after having fainted there, read a disgusting anecdote about the clientele, experienced their insistence on overfeeding their guests with mediocre food while also rushing them to finish, and read about the working conditions for their wait staff.  What, exactly, needs to happen before I can declare that I don't like the Olive Garden and it will be a valid conclusion in my friend's eyes?

As I mentioned before, this is not the first time someone has accused me of "projection".  Several years ago, a former Facebook friend posted a cheery article about how Turkey celebrates "Children's Day" on April 23 of each year.  Since 1927, Turkey has celebrated it on April 23, though it is celebrated in other countries on other days.  Having spent two years living in Armenia, I know that since 1915, Armenia has celebrated Genocide Memorial Day every year on April 24th due to the fact that Turkish people murdered millions of Armenians during World War I.  However, I did not know about Turkey's holiday.  When my friend shared the article about Turkish Children's Day, I noted the date and it got me thinking.  

I thought it was curious that the Turks would celebrate Children's Day the day before Armenians observe Genocide Memorial Day, especially since Genocide Memorial Day predates Turkish Children's Day by over ten years.  I mentioned it on my friend's post, not meaning to start a debate, but just thinking that it was an interesting coincidence.  Actually, having been to Turkey and talked to Turks about Armenia, I learned that many of them have no idea why Armenians are not necessarily friendly to Turks.  They are not taught about the Genocide.  In fact, some people question if the Genocide is a real thing or they spin it so the Armenians are equally to blame for it.

If she'd been open to it, my former Facebook friend and I could have had an interesting and educational discussion about this topic.  Instead, she got very upset that I pointed out this "coincidence" and accused me of "projecting" my "unreasonable" anger about the Genocide toward Turkey.  I distinctly remember her comment, "And what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?!"  I thought that was an unreasonably hostile response and, several years on, I haven't forgotten it.

First off, I am not angry at Turkish people for the Armenian Genocide.  I was not around during those days and neither was almost anyone else alive today.  The vast majority of people directly responsible for the Genocide are long dead.  I wouldn't blame today's Turks for what happened over 100 years ago.  I could choose to be angry with them for other reasons; but as it so happens, the Turks don't currently upset me, my time in Armenia notwithstanding.  I have visited Turkey and really enjoyed seeing the country, even if I did get sexually harassed during my trip.

Secondly, why in the world would this woman, who has not seen or spoken to me in decades, assume that I'm "angry" simply based on a factual observation about Turkey's Children's Day and its curious timing with Armenian Genocide Day?  To me, it's just intriguing that Turkey would celebrate children the day before Armenians mourn the deaths of their countrymen, many of whom were innocent children.  Bringing that up does not mean I'm angry.  And, for all I know, it was a total coincidence (although I doubt it).  

If anything, I'd wonder if she was angry-- pissed that I brought this up on a post that she'd meant to show that she celebrates culture around the world.  I doubt she'd considered that anyone would point out the relation between Turkey and Armenia, but then, if we were real friends, she'd know that I lived there for two years and know something about the place.  But I don't want to make unreasonable assumptions about what a person is really thinking...

Anyway... this is turning out to be another of them days.  This morning, I woke up to notifications that someone on SingSnap turned one of my solos into a duet.  And, to throw salt in the wound, she also referred to me as "hun".  Add in the fact that Bill has to attend an overnight in another city so he can get training that may be irrelevant in a mere three months and you might know that today has already gotten off to an annoying start.  I think I'll walk the dogs and try to burn off some of this "angst".  

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