Brotherhood and Unity … and crackers

So I’m sitting here coding my little heart out the other day and drinking espresso when I overhear a verbal altercation between a server and someone who popped in to help himself to handfuls of Sitwells’ crackers—you know, the kind you get in restaurants that come two to a pack. He helped himself to about 20 or 30 packs. He claimed, upon being told that [tag]crackers[/tag] weren’t free, at least for people that just walk in off the street, use the bathroom, and walk out, that he had been told the opposite by another server who, conveniently, wasn’t present.

Upon being informed that they were 15 cents per pack, a la carte, he protested. “What is this [tag]communist[/tag] [tag]Russia[/tag]? What do you mean, you gotta charge me for crackers? This ain’t no communist [tag]China[/tag], man.” The verbal tirade continued, and in the end he relinquished a sum total of one pack of crackers before walking out.

I worked too long in the [tag]service industry[/tag] to be phased by this. Plus I think this sort of thing happens in [tag]Sitwells[/tag] about 20 times a day. But the server in question in question is a friend of mine, so I guess I paid more attention than I might have otherwise. And I couldn’t help but laugh, in a sad, ironic sort of way, at the logic: this is not a communist nation so I should get something for free. Um, gee dude, last time I checked, America was founded by advocates of a free market, and our economy is free-market based—sometimes more, sometimes less, but relatively free, nonetheless.

And free market doesn’t mean your crackers are free—it just means I’m free to make crackers and sell them for whatever price people, i.e., the market, are willing to pay, without the gubmint poking its nose into the process.

Communism, on the other hand, dictated—heh, that was unintentional—that crackers should indeed be free. To wit: from each according to his ability, to each, according to his need—on paper, at least (like capitalism, communism works better on paper, as human nature doesn’t enter into the equation). So, ostensibly, in the Soviet Union, or China under Mao (not quite so much now, trust me), you could indeed get crackers for free. You might have to wait in the cracker line all day (or pay 8 bejillion rubles for the crackers if there happened to be any, depending on what era of the Soviet Union we’re talking about). Or there might not be any because Dear Leader Mao ordered all the farming implements melted down to make inferior steel in the cracker-producing commune’s kitchen. But if you could find them, they, the crackers, would indeed be free.

Apparently our cracker consumer didn’t pay attention in history class. From now on, whenever I get crackers in a restaurant, particularly if I ask for them, I’m going to think of this incident.

P.S.

Hi Johnny O