Service of Silent Retribution

March 17th, 2011

Categories: Anger, Responsiveness, Restaurant, Service, Silent Retribution


Injustices happen. We’re taught to turn the other cheek, are reminded endlessly that life isn’t fair and when confronted by a glitch are urged to move on quickly and get over it. Only antacid manufacturers benefit when we dwell on a wrong for too long and let it gnaw on our innards.

Revenge is of short term satisfaction and can be dangerous. Yet I think it’s a beautiful thing to learn that someone who was out of line with me also offended countless others and, in some cases, to find out that in some way they got theirs or, at least, their behavior was publicly noted.

injustice1I can hear Rex Harrison singing “How delightful” as he rubbed his hands together in “My Fair Lady” [maybe the song was “I’m An Ordinary Man”].

That musical phrase played for me the other week as I read Josh Barbanel’s article, “Eatery Closes After Decades-Long Family Spat” in The Wall Street Journal as one paragraph about this 100+ year old place rang a distant bell. Barbanel described some of the reasons for its demise: “At the same time the small restaurant in the back developed a reputation for surly New York service, and is rarely busy. One of the ____’s daughters has been known to chase tourists and other pesky customers out of the store.” [The blank is mine; her name unimportant.]

“Wow!” I thought as I read about this woman who had been outrageous to me when I owned a business called Delivered Delicacies [although I was neither a tourist nor pesky]. The details are immaterial, but to put her performance in perspective, she was one of three people in all the years I’ve worked in a range of industries who dramatically crossed the line. Reading those few words in the Journal all these years later also made me wonder why her Papa hadn’t moved her to the back office-and transferred that office offshore.

Such an echo is particularly juicy because it’s rare. I was lucky to eye the article and paragraph. I’d love to hear of similar instances of silent retribution you can share. Or do you think my vengeful attitude is appalling?


8 Responses to “Service of Silent Retribution”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Revenge is often built in to nasty and spiteful actions towards others, in the form of loss of trust and respect. This usually means little to the offender, since he is likely to be too dense or too stupid to care unless his actions eventually rise up to bite him in the rear, a rare but most gratifying moment for his victim(s). Realistically, it would seem that the ugly get away with just about everything 99% of the time.

    Most of us are subjected to unwarranted, painful and humiliating slaps. Buddhism teaches that unprovoked offenses towards others are born of pain and that those on the receiving end must understand, accept, and go on with their lives. A prevalence of such a view would prevent countless future revenge killings and related atrocities leveled at former bosses, lovers, family members or friends.

    While cheers abound when an offender is humbled, Lord Buddha has it right, especially for those believing in reincarnation. According to one of many tales, there was a monk/priest whose greed led him to commit a multitude of wrongs. He eventually died, and returned as a cockroach. Now what better revenge is that?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Buddah would be proud in that I didn’t do anything about the offense but displeased at my elation that the woman was outed in the Wall Street Journal, of all places! Goodness knows what he’d make me. I shudder to think! Something smaller than an ant.

    I fear that his system would work only if everyone agreed to it. Otherwise…the nasties would quickly take over the world.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Buddha is not reputed to take it out on victims and would understand elation at the downfall of an adversary. However, in the realization that no one is perfect, might have pointed out that you are not invulnerable to attack, and could find yourself in an equal predicament sometime in the future. Many people have no recollection of causing emotional injury, or did not recognize it as such, and thus are surprised at the presence of a cheering section once they stumble.

    Buddhism enjoys a huge following, and the “nasties” have no more taken over in countries where it prevails than they have here. Human laws are recognized in most states and what is viewed as wrongdoing is not condoned in civil as well as more aesthetic courts.

    I chose Buddhism for this argument, since unlike certain Christian sects, it promotes redemption as opposed to eternal damnation. The cockroach which was once the greedy monk can eventually rise to a greater existence, assuming he behaves, and will continue his ups and downs until eventually reaching Nirvana. While I am not convinced of reincarnation, I like that approach much better.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I would love being a fly on the wall to learn whether the woman I write about is clueless as to her place in the bad service/grouch firmament.

    I’ve heard of top sales people who have made life miserable for colleagues by acting hatefully bratty and aren’t fired to keep their clients from going to the competition and to maintain sales totals. In such a case, everyone knows how obnoxious the person is, as does the person who relishes what she/he gets away with. I have always felt it would be worth the risk to get rid of the horror as I believe the rest of the staff would take off and move sales totals to the sky in gratitude and without the depressing affect of the horror.

  5. Nenaghgal Said:

    Jeanne- I do not think your vengeful attitude is appalling. From a different perspective I find that there are a group of people in the world that are condescending bullies and if you work for them you wonder if anyone will ever tell them or tell their superior about their behaviour. I was glad to hear recently about a friend who finally left a job she’d been miserable at- in her exit interview, which she had to have with the person who was the condescending bully- she remained a complete professional but made her points very clearly – when asked questions like what things would you see changed here etc.? As time wore on the manager got more and more uncomfortable as the girl clearly highlighted her own weak points- that to me is the kind of sweet revenge I am talking about – the only thing is- that woman’s superior was not in the room as well – so she will never be “found out” so to speak.
    I saw the weather was fine for St. Pat’s in NY- we had a lovely day here in Nenagh- Sophia, now 10, marched in the parade for the first time with her school band, james was a parade steward and I was chief photographer! Hope to get images up on my blog today.
    Hope you are well – Lisa

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    We had most amazing St. Patty’s Day weather in NYC–and although spring doesn’t start until Sunday, officially, we felt the promise of green –and saw symbolic evidence of it all over town. One of my favorites in the everyone’s Irish in NY on March 17 category: I saw a little Hispanic girl sitting on a bench in a NYC subway waiting for the train with her Mom. I smiled at her green fuzzy rabbit ear headband, worn for the occasion, and got back a wonderful toothless smile–she must have been six.

    We’ll look for images on your blog!

    I like to think that horrors get theirs–the whole point of the post–and maybe many do, we just don’t know about it. Your friend was brave. Most don’t dare say too much in exit interviews. After all, the former bad boss may be asked for references. Nobody would want to volunteer that person’s name, but if asked by a future employer, what can you do?

  7. Simon Carr Said:

    A vengeful attitude is entirely human, and to my mind both justifiable and to be expected. However, it may not be the best way to see things get better.

    The Second World War came about not because of Hitler, but largely because most, if not all Germans had a vengeful attitude towards the Allies who had made them swallow a rotten treaty at Versailles.

    Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in place to deter abusers, but vengance just breeds vengance.

    What the Allies did after the Second World War, if not perfect, made better sense.

    Incidentally, Mark Twain, about whom you wrote a few months ago, had a great take on this in “Huckleberry Finn.” Another reason why that masterpiece, should neither be banned, nor sanitized.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your example of vengence, or not, is at a much higher level than the personal slights I refered to and yet it points to lessons on how to encourage healing.

    How soon they forget: Amazing how the key to keeping peace is in a book that may have been read by countless heads of countries when they were children and yet forgotten.

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