Restaurant Theology: Written On the Walls

The first thing we noticed when we sat down were the self-help pop psychology slogans festooning the walls.

Jill and I decided to drive up the coast to pick up the kids after our anniversary weekend away and stop for a last breakfast at a boat harbour cafe called, ominously, the Over Bored Cafe.  (Brought that on yourself McAlpine!)

So we ordered, took our seats and started to read the writing on the wall. Not one or two bon mots to make you giggle.  Not even twenty or thirty.  But hundreds of painstakingly painted, lovingly researched and proudly displayed words of wisdom written over every surface.

Well, I was feeling in theological/philosophical mode (as you do after an anniversary weekend), so, after we had admired the boat harbour surrounds on a balmy autumn day, we fell to critiquing the walls.

Stuff like

Be the change you want to see in the world (Gandhi never said it btw)


 When you say ‘yes’ to someone make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself  (Not realising at the time that saying “yes” to breakfast at The Over Bored Cafe is actually saying “no” to breakfast.)

and even,

You never meet someone by chance, there’s always a reason, and if it’s a hot bloke or sassy lady you should leave your spouse and shack up with them

Ok, I made the last bit of that up, but the amount of times I’ve heard that as an excuse!

Anyway nothing had been left to chance.  You were gonna leave that cafe knowing exactly who the problem was (other people), and knowing exactly who the solution was (you).

We laughed at the more outrageous statements. You’ll be pleased to know that the greatest of these was love. Though you may be surprised to realise that  “I AM LOVE“, rather than God or any such nonsense. Big call right there, but I am kinda guessing the owner believes it.

Especially after what happened next.

Which for 50 minutes was precisely nothing!

Over Bored, over long, and over it.  Three quarters of an hour after paying for breakfast still no breakfast. Couples, groups, whole tables, getting up and walking out after getting refunds.  Mr Make-No-Fuss (that’s me!) was sitting there steaming, while Mrs Say-Something-About-It (That’s Jill, she just kept her maiden name), got up and said something about it. We got our money back and left.

But no apologies.  No one actually said sorry even as people were streaming out unfed. Just a bunch of blah, blah, blah excuses. The place reeked of self-righteousness (or was that uncooked bacon?).

Even as we explained our dilemma the staff gave us the look of someone who has seen a new species of frog, but doesn’t have a category for it. Sorry just isn’t a category in the world of self-help.  The problem HAS to be other people.

Anyway, all first world problems, and we ate something less substantial, less expensive, and less non-existent on the drive back to the grandparents’ to pick up the kids.

But it’s a glimpse into a fundamental problem with the pop-psychology view of the world (sadly picked up and bastardised by too many in the church too): There’s just no place for failure.  No place for sorry.  No place for YOU being the problem. No place for repenting. Only a place for reframing the problem as everybody else, and the solution of blame-shifting or reframing your short-falls as learning opportunities.

Now that’s all fine in the non-practical  world of pop-psychology, but when the Over Bored Cafe gets its over due deserts, (as opposed to the over due desserts its customers don’t get); when it goes out of business because it is the problem, not somebody or something else, all the pop psychology in the world won’t help it.

And you know what, after our experience yesterday (and the several restaurant reviews I just read that confirmed this is standard practice), for the Over Bored Cafe the writing is most definitely on the wall.


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