Handsome freelance writer told never to come back because wife inadvertently brings Starbucks cup into restaurant.
BELLINGHAM—In a bizarre exchange Saturday afternoon at a downtown Bellingham bagel emporium, the shop’s owner unleashed a stream of vitriol and bad tidings that recipient Mike McQuaide, a youthful-looking sort with prodigious hill-climbing skills on a bicycle, could only term “bizarre, weird, and really f***ed-up.”
“You’d think I told him his wife was fat and that I’d enjoy lying with his two daughters at the same time,” said McQuaide, who has no idea if the owner is even married or has children. (It’s merely a witty phony quote written for humorous effect.)
It all started when, after a downtown haircut and visits to a new skateboard shop and Starbucks, the McQuaide family—Mike, Jen and Baker—decided to visit the Bagelry for lunch. Mike McQuaide, who frequented the bagel shop daily when he was a Bellingham Herald reporter in the ‘90s, estimates that over the past two decades, he’s probably spent about $5,000 there.
After spending another $13 for bagels, drinks, and soup, the McQuaides settled into a seat by the window. Shortly thereafter, the owner, who just moments before had greeted them with a “Hey Mike, how’s it going?” approached them.
Anticipating further pleasantries, the McQuaides were instead surprised when the owner, in a not-at-all friendly tone—one that a fed-up teacher might take with an out-of- line student who won’t quit shooting spitballs—told Jen that he’d rather she not bring coffee from other establishments into his restaurant. (Jen had inadvertently carried her Starbucks cup into the bagel shop.) Though it was obviously a accidental one-time occurrence, the owner’s manner was as if Jen was in the habit of doing this three or four times a week. In short, he was rude.
“Crikey, you’d think she’d been shooting heroin in the restroom and fallen asleep on their toilet after vomiting all over the floor, the way he talked to her,” said Mike McQuaide.
When McQuaide approached the owner to express his opinion that the owner’s tone was perhaps inappropriate, the owner chose an alternative tack than the old saw ‘the customer is always right’. Three highlights from the owner’s angry vituperative response—all offered while nine-year-old Baker McQuaide stood nearby—were:
-“You’re an idiot!”
-“Don’t ever come back here!”
-“I’m putting a curse on you, Mike, that one day you own your own restaurant!”
(This last, McQuaide said afterward, was perhaps the most bizarre thing anyone had ever said to him; it kind of freaked him out.)
During the exchange McQuaide pointed out that the bagel shop owner’s hostility seemed a strange way to treat loyal customers in what are surely troubled economic times. The owner responded by saying that McQuaide wasn’t loyal and implied that the visit to Starbucks was emblematic of McQuaide’s flawed character and immorality.
“Gimme a break,” said McQuaide. “I’m as into the ‘Buy Local’ ethos as the next guy, but for some business owners, there seems to be bit of unreasonable entitlement behind it. Kind of a ‘Buy Local, or Else …’ mentality.”
Emotionally shaken the rest of Saturday, McQuaide began to feel better on Sunday after a three-hour mountain bike ride with John Clark. McQuaide even began considering ways to mend fences, as it were.
“With the holidays coming up, maybe I should get the owner of the Bagelry something for Christmas,” said McQuaide, who’s always thinking of others. “Perhaps he'd like a Starbucks gift card.”