Monday, June 30, 2014

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

This weekend, I read the story of a 73-year old man who was fired from Cracker Barrel for giving away, in this instance, a corn muffin. The media, of course has pulled out all the stops: he's seventy-three ("Aaw"), he's a Vietnam Vet (cue flag waving), he did it because the guy was "needy" (of course!), and Cracker Barrel is a big corporation (feel the swell of righteous indignation -- go ahead, I'll give you a moment).

So the story goes, this man approached employee Joe Koblenzer, and asked for some mayonnaise and tartar sauce (mayo is the main ingredient in tartar sauce, but I didn't write this stuff) because he was going to make fish. Throughout the video, the camera focuses on the RV parking outside the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Florida. From that, and the man's fish-frying scheme, can we assume this man had not necessarily dined at the restaurant? Nonetheless, Koblenzer gave the man the mayo/ tartar sauce, determined the man was "needy," and included a corn muffin. I've been needy before. I didn't give a rat's tail whether my fish had tartar sauce or not; I was just glad for the fish. But, who am I?

By Koblenzer's own admission, this was not his first infraction. He says third; Cracker Barrel says fifth. Whatever. His previous offenses include taking a sip of Coke and giving a woman a "coffee to go." He was disciplined for both. We all screw up; I'll leave the Coke thing to late night humor, but the "coffee to go?" Was this woman needy as well? Or was she just a nice lady? A nun, perhaps? Maybe I've been brainwashed by the hierarchy of capitalism and our Orwellian government, but you don't give someone else's stuff away. Koblenzer says he would have paid for the muffin if Cracker Barrel had offered that option. Why didn't he do that in the first place? Wasn't the whole "coffee thing" more or less, a warning shot? Wouldn't one think to him/ herself, "I know this is not the right thing to do because I have been called on the carpet for it before, perhaps I can go about it another way?" Perhaps ask my supervisor. Perhaps just purchase the muffin myself and do with it as I please.

Mr. Koblenzer says he's not criticizing Cracker Barrel policy, but that this was a moral issue. Yer darn tootin' it was a moral issue! You stole something from their store even after you were previously guilty of the same infraction, and warned not to do it again. Robin Hood was fictional, but that doesn't seem to stop people from thinking he was justified.

Look, I'm not trying to judge Vets, or Senior citizens, or homeless people, or even Joe Koblenzer personally, but the media truly makes me ill when it comes to stuff like this. Listen to the interviewer's closing comment: "Puzzling. Corporate America sometimes is." Really? How puzzling is it that a corporation -- large or small -- cannot allow its employees to simply take its inventory and give it away at their discretion? How puzzling is it that corporations who donate to local and national charities don't feel it's necessary to allow their employees to start handing out free food in the parking lot? Well, I've got some things for you that are authentically puzzling:

Why are we vilifying corporations that were begun in order to -- oh, I don't know -- make money?

Why are our hired politicians raping us in taxes and healthcare, escaping the same burdens, and we are ranting about the "Muffin Man" on social media?

Why are we interviewing a man who says he doesn't want to comment on his former employer's policies, but then goes on not only to comment, but cast a dark light on Cracker Barrel's moral integrity? And why are people siding with him?

I volunteered at a "food ministry." We all have certain people who just tug at our heartstrings. When someone I believed to be "extra needy," or someone who had been saddled by some very trying circumstances came in, I would take out whatever money I'd saved since last month's distribution, and purchase something for them. My determination, my donation. See how that works?

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