You may have heard the story of Patricia Barnes, the woman who stopped at a roadside restaurant to use the bathroom only to get a bill from the restaurant for $5 in her mailbox a couple of days later. I think the story has caught fire because we’ve all used restaurants that are “for customers only” and worried that they would call the cops on us. And that is effectively what the owner of the restaurant did.
The woman tried to pay the $5 to the restaurant—Twice!—but the owner refused. She said that she was just trying to make a point. I don’t think she meant it this way, but she did make a very important point: Don’t eat at The Flood Zone in Erin, Tennessee because they are total assholes!
As celebrity chef Bobby Flay said, “There’s plenty of people that come to the restaurant, use the bathroom and leave, and that’s the way it goes.” As the article notes, “It also shows good will on the part of the owner.” But more to the point: a stunt like this shows bad will. Look: if I have stopped shopping at Whole Foods, where it is incredibly convenient for me to shop, all because they don’t pay their employees enough, I surely would boycott this stupid little restaurant if I lived anywhere near Tennessee.
None of this really matters; most business owners are dicks. What matters is that the owner did in fact call the police. And the police gave her the woman’s address. Even if there was proof (other than the owner’s word) as to this unauthorized bathroom use, it isn’t a crime; it is a civil matter. And even if it were a criminal matter, the police would deal with it themselves and not encourage some random citizen to become a vigilante. This is basic law enforcement. I understand that cops have to be fairly stupid to be employed, but someone really ought to be fired for this.
The Today Show did a survey of their viewers (not a scientific survey, but still), and 30% of the people said it was always wrong to use a restroom if you aren’t a customer. It is shocking that such a large fraction of our country believes in such ridged rules. These are the people who think that a rich man has a greater right to his wealth than a poor man has to his life. It is pathetic. Yet this kind of thinking undergirds the entire conservative movement.