Sensitivity to those with food allergies. August 5, 2016 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Food allergies are a (minor, manageable) disability, so like other disabilities, can we not blame people who are harmed by the negligence of others? Nearly every time food allergies come up, there are comments saying "people with allergies shouldn't eat out", and it feels alienating.

It's hardly the only issue where unaffected people might need to step back and think "How does this issue affect people who live it?" before they add their comment, but can we add it to the list.
posted by ambrosen to Etiquette/Policy at 10:13 AM (72 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I mean, of course it's a human right. Restaurants must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities according to both US and Canadian laws, and allergies are considered a disability by the ADA and apparently Canadian law.
posted by maxsparber at 10:30 AM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


There were some stupidass comments right out of the gate on that one. Thanks, mods, for being on top of stomping those.
posted by phunniemee at 10:32 AM on August 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


Just a quick note to say I think this is a totally okay thing to bring up as a "hey, let's think about this more as a community-mindedness" thing. There's a couple of comments in that thread that strike me as kind of dingusy/dismissive in the context ambrosen is mentioning, though I saw them late when the conversation had already done a lot of responding/embedding and has been in part about the problematic practicalities of the food allergy situation, so not really much of anything more that can be cleaned up mod-side beyond what I already caught early.

The other thing I want to say: I really don't want this thread to turn into Let's Have The Same Argument Again Over Here sort of deal. That thread's been bumpy the way threads can be on MeFi sometimes, and I've already left a note asking folks to cool it a little over there, but I'd rather the over there mostly stay over there and folks can keep this to the actual point raised in the text of the post.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:38 AM on August 5, 2016


Restaurants must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities according to both US and Canadian laws

Emphasis mine. If this were really a "human right" no exceptions for reasonableness would be allowed.

That being said, I don't think that anyone wants an outcome where food allergies turns people into shut-ins. But to when it comes down to it, the way the world works now, the allergy sufferer needs to be the final line of their own defense. And I wish there were a way to say that without sounding victim blamey.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:41 AM on August 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


...and allergies are considered a disability by the ADA and apparently Canadian law.

Great, now I'm disabled. I knew this day was going to go badly once I woke up.

I prefer "shellfish atypical."
posted by cjorgensen at 10:42 AM on August 5, 2016 [21 favorites]


If this were really a "human right" no exceptions for reasonableness would be allowed.

It's not reasonable to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater. Human rights aren't absolute.
posted by Etrigan at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Emphasis mine. If this were really a "human right" no exceptions for reasonableness would be allowed.

This is utterly untrue. You've been contrary throughout the thread, and would appreciate it if you actually did some research. There are all sorts of exceptions to disability law, based on reasonableness.
posted by maxsparber at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2016 [31 favorites]


Like, ten minutes ago:
The other thing I want to say: I really don't want this thread to turn into Let's Have The Same Argument Again Over Here sort of deal.
We can have a reminder/discussion about being kind and non-dismissive in a community discussion here without veering right off into a side-argument. Please make that effort. The original thread on the blue is still open.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, can I just use this thread to go ughhhhhh and then go do other stuff? Because ughhhhhhhhh
posted by teponaztli at 10:59 AM on August 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I needed to vent. That thread, man. I don't know why it gets under my skin so much. Maybe I gotta take a few steps back.
posted by teponaztli at 11:00 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Removed it from my activity. It's very anxiety inducing to see so many MeFites smack up against their privilege and instantly become defensive about it.
posted by maxsparber at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2016 [18 favorites]


I AM SO FUCKING ANGRY ABOUT THAT THREAD. I HAVE SO MANY ANGRY ALLERGY FEELINGS.

I have a really severe shellfish and seafood allergy, and I carry an epi pen, and I carry Benadryl and I make my family carry epi pens; and I call places ahead of time (seriously, even for like work lunches) to check if they use shrimp paste or anchovies in things; (umami death) because I have 1. never tasted seafood and 2. trace amounts cause severe reactions. if we go out to dinner and I make reservations I mention it in my reservation. I just flat out don't eat in seafood restaurants. It is exhausting.

Ordering beef tartare; telling the waiter you have a seafood allergy, and then getting fucking salmon is unacceptable. Getting beef tartare with worchestershire sauce (has happened to me) is sucky as fuck(and probably why the guy mentioned it to the waiter); but hey that one I'd probably understand a bit more.

I have so many angry feelings and balls of rage about this. also about faking allergies.
posted by larthegreat at 11:13 AM on August 5, 2016 [51 favorites]


Why is it so hard to be kind to the guy who nearly died because someone else couldn't be bothered to pay a tiny bit of attention?

The diner was not at fault. I'm so angry on his behalf.
posted by MissySedai at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


So yes, I hope it was right to post this. On preview, clearly I wasn't the only person to get upset by this, so yes, good to be able to express strong feelings.

Ideally I'd have put a lot more emphasis on the people might need to step back and think "How does this issue affect people who live it?" before they reply, because the solution to this isn't adding "food allergies" to a list of things that might have more pervasive effects that someone unaffected would think, it's making sure that we always think "I wonder what it's like to be the person actually experiencing that?", because normally there's someone reading MetaFilter who actually knows what it feels like. I guess that's my real message.
posted by ambrosen at 11:20 AM on August 5, 2016 [29 favorites]


I don't think that anyone wants an outcome where food allergies turns people into shut-ins. But to when it comes down to it, the way the world works now, the allergy sufferer needs to be the final line of their own defense. And I wish there were a way to say that without sounding victim blamey.

If you find yourself talking about 'it's just how things work' and 'I can't find a way to say this without it sounding like victim-blaming,' I would gently suggest that one consider the possibility that what you're saying might, in fact, be victim-blaming.

Before the passage of the ADA, buildings just weren't accessible, by default, and disabled Americans had to be proactive in finding places where they could actually visit comfortably. That's just how it was: it was up to them. Until it wasn't.

I do think the ire here is partly the fault of the framing of the articles in the FPP: it is an exceptional response (the waiter being arrested) to what is sadly a routine situation situation (an allergy attack), in which we also don't have enough details to say exactly what happened (the case has not been tried; it's not even clear, for example, if the EpiPen was used or not). A lot of people are jumping to comment on this very specific situation and then it quickly becomes a proxy fight about allergies while eating out in general. Exceptional cases (can) make for bad discussions, and when the general case is one that's a tremendous quality of life issue for some people it's hard to just let incorrect ideas (eg, people not knowing how EpiPens work) stand.
posted by cjelli at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2016 [39 favorites]


You know, I used to think that tipping was the only food service related topic that people on the Internet get crazy worked up about, but I think that I need to add "allergies" to the list.

Both topics could be addressed by major change to how restaurants are run, but the fights seem driven by everybody's individual experiences, be it the struggles of coping with an allergy, or the trials of food-service work.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:31 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you find yourself talking about 'it's just how things work' and 'I can't find a way to say this without it sounding like victim-blaming,' I would gently suggest that one consider the possibility that what you're saying might, in fact, be victim-blaming.

May I gently suggest that you take a second to read what I actually said* in the thread before you jump down my throat about the ADA?

*Or really, what almost every body in the thread who is pushing back on individual responsibility for the waiter in the case is saying?
posted by sparklemotion at 11:37 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Food allergies are a (minor, manageable) disability, so like other disabilities, can we not blame people who are harmed by the negligence of others? Nearly every time food allergies come up, there are comments saying "people with allergies shouldn't eat out", and it feels alienating.

Thanks for the great reminder to not victim-blame people with food allergies. Not really sure why anyone would have a problem with a reminder to not victim-blame people with food allergies.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:45 AM on August 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


May I gently suggest that you take a second to read what I actually said...Or really, what almost every body in the thread who is pushing back on individual responsibility for the waiter in the case is saying?

I was one of those people: I specifically already said in it the the thread that I don't believe that holding the individual waiter culpable would be the best remedy. Please don't presume I'm talking about the charges against the waiter when I didn't say that I was.

I apologize for being snarky; I should have paused for a minute and phrased what I said differently.

Let me put it this way: when you said this -- But to when it comes down to it, the way the world works now, the allergy sufferer needs to be the final line of their own defense. And I wish there were a way to say that without sounding victim blamey.

I'm not talking about the thread, I'm talking about that comment. Telling allergy sufferers that 'this is how the world works' is insulting and victim-blaming: allergy suffers know how the world works with regards to allergies. They do not need to be told. They know they need to be their own defenders.
posted by cjelli at 11:55 AM on August 5, 2016 [31 favorites]


Thanks, I see where you're coming from.

the allergy sufferer needs to be the final line of their own defense.

This was me clumsily trying to express (in the light of the "human rights" issue) that no one wants allergy sufferers to have to stay home all the time (though it seems like some people assume that this is a desirable outcome), while at the same time responding to the commenters on the blue (and, later here), who stated (paraphrasing) that once the server is informed of the allergy, the responsibility is on the server to "not kill them"

In the world that I (think most of us) would like to live in, yeah, once the server knows, the requirement of vigilance on the part of the customer is complete. But I feel like we need to be able to acknowledge that we don't live in that world without that being read as insulting to allergy sufferers.

I'm going to use a personal example, not to make this about me, but to avoid stepping on toes by speaking for people for whom I have no right. For a few days in July, things near where I live got to a point where I felt that it wasn't safe for me, as a black person, to go out at night. If a white person had said in a comment thread: "The way things are now, it's not safe for black people to go out at night" I wouldn't have read that as an insult. I would have read it as someone acknowledging the fact of my existence at the time.

Which is why I, mistakenly, thought that my phrasing was supportive (obviously, it was not).
posted by sparklemotion at 12:46 PM on August 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


This seems like the kind of thing that happens when an article about obesity is posted and people start talking about how easy it is to lose weight. Not really the point, you know? The article is about the fact that the server may be brought up on charges and not about how people with allergies should behave, as if there is a simple answer to that!
posted by soelo at 12:59 PM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


i cant believe people are fighting over a fpp on allergies #wtf #fridaynighthorror #hugs
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:35 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


For a few days in July, things near where I live got to a point where I felt that it wasn't safe for me, as a black person, to go out at night. If a white person had said in a comment thread: "The way things are now, it's not safe for black people to go out at night" I wouldn't have read that as an insult. I would have read it as someone acknowledging the fact of my existence at the time.

But to when it comes down to it, the way the world works now, the allergy sufferer needs to be the final line of their own defense.

Here's the difference, I think, as I read it.

The former, where someone says "The way things are now...", it very much reads like a statement of fact without a consequent judgement on the motivations, character, or behavior of the black person.

The latter, with the "needs to be... their own defence"? That, instead of reading like fact without judgement, reads instead like a behavioral prescription. It reads no differently than A woman walking around at night needs to be aware of her circumstances, because in both cases, you are telling someone what to do. Often times, that sort of "you need to do x" reads less like a "statement of fact" that is not an insult, but a hair's breadth of saying, "Well, it was your own fucking fault. Why didn't you do this, this, this, this, and this?"

Maybe, instead of assuming that everyone understands what you're trying to say, perhaps listen to how others are phrasing things and explaining?
posted by qcubed at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


i cant believe people are fighting over a fpp on allergies #wtf #fridaynighthorror #hugs

i can't believe that people feel the need to comment on people...

oh nevermind.
posted by futz at 2:57 PM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the world that I (think most of us) would like to live in, yeah, once the server knows, the requirement of vigilance on the part of the customer is complete. But I feel like we need to be able to acknowledge that we don't live in that world without that being read as insulting to allergy sufferers.

Why do we need to acknowledge that we live in a world where you might end up getting screwed even though you did everything a reasonable person would do to prevent something from happening? I'm not being rhetorical, I just don't get why it's important.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:59 PM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Because to talk about solutions to a problem you need to be able to acknowledge them?
posted by sparklemotion at 3:26 PM on August 5, 2016


I'm really shocked by the comments on that fpp, and I thought I'd become immune to horrible MeFi comments after the numerous sexist and transphobic comments on fpps over the years. I can't tell if it's because people are outraged that the waiter is being charged and lashing out, or because people who pretend to have allergies have ruined it for everyone else, or because of a total lack of empathy for the man who took precautions and yet still almost died.
posted by toerinishuman at 3:32 PM on August 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


Because to talk about solutions to a problem you need to be able to acknowledge them?

What's the solution to the problem that sometimes people get screwed even though they did everything a reasonable person would do to prevent something from happening?
posted by 23skidoo at 3:35 PM on August 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've got to say...I am almost entirely new to the world of food allergies. But my baby is apparently allergic to at least a couple of really common and inconvenient things, we have discovered in just the past few weeks, and suddenly I am having to read labels and ask questions at restaurants and ask for special preparations so that things that make him sick don't get into my breastmilk. This is the first food allergy thread that's come up since he started having symptoms and it's made me feel pretty worried and bad. I don't really cook competently, and having to stop eating at restaurants would be a really sad thing for my family. I don't eat most meats, so I'm used to handling food restrictions. I'm not shy. But I'm not used to there being actual consequences (beyond "I don't want to eat this food, I will have to pick out a bunch of stuff") if those restrictions are ignored.

My cousin (who I didn't see often growing up) has a severe and occasionally near-deathly peanut allergy, so I was aware on some level of the trouble and worry that is constant background noise for food allergic people. But I had no idea that so many people have such non-sympathetic attitudes about allergies. Like, man, the world is hard enough for a baby without this crap. It's even harder knowing there are apparently lots of people out there who work in restaurants who shrug this crap away.

I mean, I guess I'm glad to know it before it becomes an issue? I don't know. Am I? I think I was happier when I thought everyone took notifications about food allergies as seriously as I always have. But I guess now I'll just be that much more cautious and vigilant. :(
posted by town of cats at 3:53 PM on August 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


I think some comments that thread are yet another case of people treating their comments as this abstract rational thought experiment that is maybe a little out of touch with how other users can be affected. Like, it's not idle chitchat to tell someone with a food allergy that they should never eat out. And yet people are shooting the shit about this and saying stuff along the lines "if you have an allergy, you should never eat out" like it's perfectly rational advice in the abstract, and people who disagree just don't seem to understand the logic here. And then they dig in because they know they're right, even when other users object and say they're offended by the suggestion. Any objection or offense is clearly a failure to - what, accept the reality of the situation?

This dynamic plays out over and over again on this site, and it can be like pulling teeth to convince people that they are, in fact, saying something hurtful and that it's not the other person's fault for taking offense.
posted by teponaztli at 4:36 PM on August 5, 2016 [29 favorites]


Also I think people keep talking past each other. A lot of the comments read like that person thinks refusing to blame the customer means you must therefore blame and punish the waiter. I don't think I've seen as much the other way around, but I'm not impartial here. The point is, I agree that the framing of the post makes it hard to separate out the two issues ("does a waiter deserve this harsh punishment" and "is the waiter responsible for the customer's coma").
posted by teponaztli at 4:48 PM on August 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is this comment supposed to be funny? I really can't tell but I don't think it helps the thread.
posted by futz at 5:25 PM on August 5, 2016


Flag it?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:28 PM on August 5, 2016


Yes, the several comments suggesting this is class warfare of some sort are firmly in Poe's Law territory for me. Is the idea that only wealthy people have food allergies? Or that working class people should never be held responsible for their professional behavior? I don't get it.
posted by biogeo at 7:09 PM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


The problem with that thread is that there are two victims; the guy with the allergy, and the waiter who appears to have been put in the position of making life-and-death decisions on someone else's behalf (as well as second-guessing what's gone on in the kitchen) presumably without the training, support or pay needed to take on that kind of responsibility in the chaotic environment of a restaurant.

There are things that both of them could have done better. To say that it's acceptable to accuse the waiter of negligence but wrong to even contemplate anything that the diner could have done differently (and that's what the "victim-blaming" accusation is - it's not a claim that a position is arguable but wrong, it's a claim that a position is categorically bad and should not be expressed, which makes sense as a response to attempts to shift blame from a malicious actor to an innocent victim but doesn't make sense here) seems as unhelpful to anyone who's ever worked in a shitty food service job as the reverse would seem to anyone with a food allergy.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:32 PM on August 5, 2016 [21 favorites]


As a life-long sufferer of things like hayfever and having had a couple of episodes of life-threatening anaphylactic shock caused by nuts, I'm still surprised by how ignorant and dismissive people can be about others' allergies. Plus I think the Internet makes it easy for people to come across as more abusive than they might be in real life.

But I really think it would help if restaurant management and staff were educated about the issue and required to meet basic standards, just like we do for bacterial contamination and sanitation. That way we both reduce the risk to consumers, and clarify the avenues for legal redress.
posted by sneebler at 7:43 PM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think some comments that thread are yet another case of people treating their comments as this abstract rational thought experiment that is maybe a little out of touch with how other users can be affected.

I've thought about this a lot. When we write with a more abstracted audience in mind, I wonder if there is also some crossover with narrative theory. Consider the role of the ideal reader:
The imaginary audience who would, ideally, understand every phrase, word, and allusion in a literary work, and who would completely understand the literary experience an author presents, and then responds emotionally as the writer wished.
I've come to suspect that some people project their perspective onto others as something of an "ideal audience" who should affirm their narrative, or are idealized as surely being quick to affirm the justice of their stated cause. Sometimes this comes from moving too fast, abstracting the audience too quickly, and not attempting to find a balance between rationality and true empathy (I've found myself liable to do this, and in my better moments take a minute to better modulate my tone or conclusions).

This likely doesn't cover all instances, but if some people interact with abstracted groups envisioning the audience as an ideal reader of what they are proposing, and if you mix that with the fact that some people use the internet as a way to be affirmed rather than a place to actually have their ideas challenged and sharpened in their interactions of others (which can be a strong psychological impulse), it's probably easy to frame their personal moral or experiential narrative as being the template by which others should be judged, without first listening and understanding. That is, empathy is not viewed or practiced as a natural prerequisite to approaching moral problems, but rather the audience becomes something that serves their own need to be an authoritative voice.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:48 PM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, the several comments suggesting this is class warfare of some sort are firmly in Poe's Law territory for me.

I think it's fair game to bring up exploitation of food service workers by management and to ask whether they're getting unfairly blamed for a structural problem, as well as whether it's fair to make them bear so much risk without having any real stake in the rewards. But at least one or two (deleted) comments seemed to be actually going from there into some weird nihilistic territory where because minimum-wage employees are exploited, any amount of negligence on their part is therefore morally permissible.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:06 AM on August 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Seeing the other side where people with mild learning disability and problems with accuracy are not offered disability benefits- we are also saying that people with accuracy deficits whether due to life stress, mental illness essentially shouldn't work.

Food service is one of the last sanctuaries for people who can't perform very well but don't qualify for an specific disability.

Do we really want people who know they are error prone to not work? How should they eat?

Can some restaurants just say up front they can't accommodate life threatening food allergies?
posted by xarnop at 2:42 AM on August 6, 2016


Sure, restaurants are perfectly free to refuse to serve people with life threatening food allergies. I'm not sure I've ever encountered one that actually does, though, so they must have done the calculus and decided it's not worth the bad publicity.

The thread didn't seem that bad to me but my tolerance is probably pretty high.
posted by Justinian at 2:46 AM on August 6, 2016


I'm really irritated that people keep derailing by ignoring the actual situation (a server in Quebec promises allergy accommodation which is not provided) in order to talk about their pet grievances (disability issues in the US, low wages and poor working conditions for servers in the US, class issues in the US, etc). People are also aggressively assuming that this server's working conditions are identical to servers in the US, which is not true.

I realize that most of metafilter lives in the US, but not all of us do. There have been plenty of threads on all of these issues in a US context. I for one would like to discuss this Canadian event in a goddamn Canadian context.
posted by randomnity at 8:01 AM on August 6, 2016 [43 favorites]


I would imagine that some people who hold jobs in the hospitality industry, take pride in their work, and consider themselves professionals (in, totally agree with randomnity, a Canadian context; moreover, in the upper end of that industry, in a Canadian context) might not totally enjoy the idea that they are incapable of holding personal standards as a result of their systemic (USian) exploitation or that they are necessarily addicted, suffer mental health issues, etc.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:45 AM on August 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


Food allergies are a (minor, manageable) disability, so like other disabilities, can we not blame people who are harmed by the negligence of others?

That's a decent thought, but the diner in the article is himself assigning blame, so there's always going to be people who look at the incident from different sides, no matter the specific situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:01 AM on August 6, 2016


Can some restaurants just say up front they can't accommodate life threatening food allergies?

I have seen this explicitly stated in some restaurants in some U.S. states. I don't know the situation in Canada, which I have the impression has a stronger culture of equal access.
posted by biogeo at 9:10 AM on August 6, 2016


Yeah, the argument that working in food service is, by definition, a disability is... weird. And I guess I feel like it's part of a pattern, where certain posters use class politics to deny and delegitimize the claims of other marginalized groups. That whole thing was such a weird derail.

I apologize for bringing up US disability law, for what it's worth. I shouldn't have contributed to the derail.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:10 AM on August 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


I don't know the situation in Canada, which I have the impression has a stronger culture of equal access.

In both Quebec and Ontario restaurants, I have been told that cross-contamination could not be adequately prevented, strongly implying that there is no Canadian law requiring that restaurants accommodate life-threatening allergies. So the (many) restaurants here that do promise allergen-free food do so because it is good business for them and/or because they think it's the right thing to do, not because it's required by law.

The issue in this case is that they did agree to accommodate the allergy and then completely failed to do so.
posted by randomnity at 9:29 AM on August 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just a reminder, if you want to talk about the case, and the laws and ethical and practical considerations surrounding it, etc., please do that in the discussion on the blue, and use this thread to talk about site standards or expectations and how to make discussion go better.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:20 AM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


> I'm really irritated that people keep derailing by ignoring the actual situation (a server in Quebec promises allergy accommodation which is not provided) in order to talk about their pet grievances (disability issues in the US, low wages and poor working conditions for servers in the US, class issues in the US, etc). People are also aggressively assuming that this server's working conditions are identical to servers in the US, which is not true.

I realize that most of metafilter lives in the US, but not all of us do. There have been plenty of threads on all of these issues in a US context. I for one would like to discuss this Canadian event in a goddamn Canadian context.


I would say go ahead and have that conversation, and suggest corrections as they seem appropriate. Threads that can self-correct by knowledgable people coming to the table are the best ones.

As a community question, I would very much like for us (at some time, and perhaps not this one) talk about what constitutes a derail in terms of how it relates to us having multiple conversations at a time in a given thread. I say this based on my historical love for metafilter, as I've enjoyed conversations that do the following:

1. Talk about the issue at hand.

2. Have some side discussions that are related, may have indirect topical import, and to which we can bring our own personal context.

3. Have a few jokes in appropriate places to add levity to what can sometimes be a heavy conversation.

It seems to me like 2 and 3 have been less okay over time (although 3 is less related at the moment), and I feel as if we sometimes define derail in the same way we want everyone at a IRL gathering to all talk about what "I want to talk about." I've liked that we can have multiple weaving (and sometimes side) discussions, although I understand how that can be distracting for some people.

Obviously, this can go too far, and often derails have been used to obfuscate important issues or to try to silence people (and that has not been good), so we need to use some common sense; I'm a big proponent of smart moderation. But in terms of a community value, I don't like how we refer to things as derails as much these days because we don't have one thread of a very common conversation, instead of the possibility of multiple conversations; something akin to a group gathering, where this kind of thing often happens in polite company.

My feeling is that instead of us developing the virtue of taking what we want and leaving the rest from a conversation thread, we sometimes focus too much on what other people say and try to get them in line with a conversation. My apologies if I'm off the mark or reading the climate wrong, and my apologies randomnity if this seems my comment is about you; it's related, but mostly my jumping off point. I guess I want us to be able to naturally have adult conversations about what people want to talk about (in tangentially related ways), and work around them with our own conversations if we want to talk about something else, instead of us wanting those conversations to just go away.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:27 AM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, echoing en forme de poire, fffm's voice is missed in this discussion.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:04 AM on August 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


The discussion would have gone a lot better if people hadn't taken "Quebec waiter may be charged with criminal negligence" to mean "Quebec waiter definitely guilty of criminal negligence."

In no way do I mean to imply that that was the only thing wrong with discussion in that thread, but it was for sure a big chunk of it and it could easily have been avoided if people had just stopped for a second and remembered that a newspaper article about a possible upcoming case is not the same as a verdict delivered by a jury.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:37 PM on August 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Right - this is a website for non-legally-binding discussion of events and facts to which we can only have incomplete epistemic access. We are not charged with the responsibility of actually sorting it out. In the absence of such a responsibility, I feel that speculation about causes (btw I am betting, betting on things), fantasies about prevention or mitigation of future events, etc., are fair game.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:01 PM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sure, speculate away. Pose hypotheticals. Make wild "if…then" statements. State your assumptions and then say what you think follows from those assumptions, even. (Although don't be surprised if people attack your assumptions for being unrealistic or unkind.)

But when people says things like "I absolutely think the waiter belongs in jail," that is not speculation. That's jumping to a conclusion based on scanty evidence, and it's bad for the conversation. I saw a lot more of that kind of turf-staking and side-taking and frank tribalism (from both "sides" of the argument) than I saw innocent speculation.

I also saw a lot of people taking one person's speculative comment and then basing their own comment off of that speculation as if it were rock-solid fact. The waiter was drunk. The patron was careless. The waiter should have been able to smell that it was salmon, not beef. The patron should have been able to see that it was salmon, not beef. That kind of thing is all through the thread, and it's poison to constructive discussion.

It's like the whole thread was a game of telephone, where people were re-transmitting everything that reinforced their pre-existing position as legal proof and everything that weakened it as calumny and slander. There is a lot of shoddy logic and lazy thinking on display in that thread, and while it might have started out as idle speculation it certainly didn't end that way.

And to be honest, I'd argue that it didn't even start that way. Comments one and two in that thread immediately staked out the two basic premises that the fight orbited around—one, that the waiter was definitely negligent and two, that the patron was definitely feckless—and things just went on from there with few arguers being willing to lend the other side a sympathetic ear or admit that their own position might be less than rock solid.

In hindsight, I think that thread would've gone a lot better if those first two comments had been immediately flagged and deleted. This isn't the first time a fight has sprung up here around foodservice and food allergies. Maybe the mods need to be more vigilant in such threads (and maybe they would have been in a less distracting time) and maybe people reading those threads need to lean more on the side of FIAMO rather than responding to the obvious fight-starters. I know in the future I'll personally consider comments like those in threads like that to be threadshitting, and I'll try to remember to flag them as such.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:26 PM on August 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


Ok, well, do you also think that it might be appropriate to flag fantasy reform proposals that have no basis in lived experience of the phenomenon under discussion (or research on the legal and sociological realities on that particular ground), and have been imported from arguably non-analogous contexts? I don't, because this is a board for discussion, but someone might.

People make assumptions about causality all the time - based on flimsy ground, hunches and inductive leaps - it's going to happen when a thing is unknown. I don't disagree that it'd be good to be more careful about it. (I could do that. Yes I was lazy, I admit.) Here, I think the intensity of discussion isn't coming from the size of the leaps (so much) as much as from the weight of the moral intuitions people have, and the way those intuitions are used to dismiss other people's experiences.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:59 PM on August 6, 2016


Sure, people should feel free to flag whatever they want. However, I'm pretty sure that proposing that a sector of business should be better regulated is almost always fair game around here so I feel pretty good about my comments staying up if they were to be flagged. You were talking about my comments, right? I mean you didn't come out and say it so I'm not sure, but you were trying to get a dig in, yeah?

I don't even have a clear recollection of your participation in the thread (like, I don't recall your basic position even, though I know you were a major participant) so to be clear nothing in my comment above was directed specifically at you except inasmuch as I was replying to you and building off of that reply. I was commenting on what I saw as a general pattern of behavior from both sides. for what it's worth I myself don't have a side in the argument, I think the argument itself is the problem. If you saw yourself in the pattern I described, you might want to ruminate on that a little.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:15 PM on August 6, 2016


I love (and have made) reform proposals, especially ones focused on government regulation, so I'm not really criticizing that. The impulse to improve can be irresistible. I'm not flagging anything like that. I am noting, though, that there were ~19 (guessing) proposals of reform to the Canadian hospitality sector. I do not know to what extent those offering them have direct or indirect experience of this world, other than that of one person who described their experience at length, whose suggestion was more or less dismissed by people who seem to know lots better.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:28 PM on August 6, 2016


I think part of the problem is that this is an intersection of some things, all of which can be hard, some of which are diametrically opposed to each other.

First: people eating in restaurants are generally perceived (whether accurately or not) to have more money and class privilege in general than the ones serving them

Second: People with food allergies are often perceived (whether accurately or not) to be inflating their actual needs because of preference

Third: There is both disability inequity and class inequity, and which one resonates stronger for people depends on a lot of factors.

This case pits someone perceived to be both disadvantaged and privileged (working class non-disabled waiter) against someone perceived to be both disadvantaged and privileged (presumed upper middle class disabled diner). And it's hitting everyone's buttons, and because there are those kind of Schroedinger's Privilege situations, it doesn't promote the same cooling off it might otherwise.

I think this is just a uniquely bad situation for the way people discuss stuff. I don't recall similar posts without "opposite victims" going as badly.
posted by corb at 3:38 PM on August 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


I suspect food service in particular is also another hot button issue here, since it's probably the single working-class job that the most MeFites have had personal, direct experience with at some point. Plus it's a customer facing job, which has a heightened potential for conflict and adversarial relationships even when the class angle isn't the same (see: 90s tech support).
posted by en forme de poire at 3:49 PM on August 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


There is also a lot of really awful disdain for service jobs in general on the Blue (see almost any snark about baristas as well), which sort of adds to this weird snobbery.

I agree about actually talking about the matter in the Canadian context because it happened in Canada. But honestly, even if you gently try to course correct the conversation from a US context, that's the only frame of reference 80% of the posters here have so it can, upon occasion, just overtake the thread.
posted by Kitteh at 3:55 PM on August 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Shit wouldn't have had to be all adversarial though if people could have refrained from making wild assumptions about the patron and/or the waiter. The actual article in the FPP is pretty bare bones. Not many facts are available. There are some allegations, but they're all one-sided. It's not enough to base a strong argument on either way, but right out of the gate people were showing up ready to rumble. It's like a big announcement went out: "Fight in thread 161436, bring your own axes and/or grindstones."

It's like there wasn't enough material to fight about, so people had to make shit up in order to provide sufficient substance for a real argument.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:00 PM on August 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


At this point, and again, hindsight, I feel like the best thing would have been to just axe the thread right away. The article it's based on is actually quite thin, and it's only really notable in that it touches on a couple of pre-existing MeFi sore points (people with food allergies and people who work service jobs) in a way that makes it easy to pit one against the other, even though the two aren't really natural enemies and a lot of MeFites (like myself) have a lot of sympathy for both groups. Heck, it's almost certain that lots of us here both have food allergies and have waited tables at some point in our lives. The very lack of substance in the article, combined with the fact that it's framed around a potential court case, seems to have provided fertile ground for people to summon up whatever demons of prejudice they were carrying around and make them duke it out.

There's no reason that both parties couldn't have been careless, or neither of them. The whole fight is stupid, but in hindsight it was really predictable looking at all the factors in play in the article. If the post could have been just deleted, that would probably have been ideal.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:09 PM on August 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


In hindsight, agree, all there; corb's analysis is right on. That's what makes it a sort of good story (and I half expect a short film to come out of it, probably courtesy Telefilm Quebec). I'm not sure the mods could have guessed that this is quite how some of us might spend a Friday evening. That (among other points raised here) is definitely cause for reflection.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:38 PM on August 6, 2016


There's always this dynamic online when two sides get roughly staked out, and then it seems like you're responding to the worst of the worst comments from the other side even if you're not. People are right to be annoyed about "I bet that waiter is a jerk," but then it leads to comments like "you people just love hating service labor," even if it was just one comment. And usually it's a few people really digging in on either side to various degrees, so it gets even more complicated.
posted by teponaztli at 7:06 PM on August 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I do agree, though, that this particular thread got off to a bad start.
posted by teponaztli at 7:07 PM on August 6, 2016


Agree, that was not my finest moment. (My logic [having lived in Quebec for a handful of years, albeit a long time ago]: people are a little less uptight about things in general, more convivial - not totally unheard of for a member of staff at a restaurant to have a drink with a patron. If the server was drinking, with a group of patrons, in a manner so obnoxious it stole people's attention from their food and company, it must have been something of a show. Maybe he did it for the tips, in which case he was maybe letting someone else down, or causing slack somewhere; maybe he did it for the kicks. I didn't say "jerk", I said "jackass", which is how I'd describe someone who behaved like that for any reason.)

Yes, I am judgemental and rash sometimes, it is not appealing and needs tempering, and I will try to be less of a jackass myself.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:54 PM on August 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nearly every time food allergies come up, there are comments saying "people with allergies shouldn't eat out"

I think this provides a very important opportunity to put forward counter-arguments. I think it's much preferable to having lots of people thinking these things, saying nothing, and never hearing why the situation is more complex than they realize.
posted by amtho at 10:28 AM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's an old argument amtho, and a pretty controversial one in these parts. Consider whether or not it seems fair for a thread to exist just so that the privileged may have the opportunity of chastising the marginalized, and then be given the further opportunity to be educated when those same marginalized people feel forced to speak up in their own defense. Consider that this adversarial model of education becomes particularly tiresome for marginalized people due to the fact that it is a Sisyphan effort, a sort of treadmill where new clueless-and-privileged folks keep showing up to get unwittingly schooled in what it's like to be in someone else's shoes.

Perhaps it's better to just strive for a higher level of kindness and compassion across the board, and for people with no direct experience in an issue to just hang back a bit and absorb that education as spectators, maybe doing a little of their own research on the side if the topic interests them and they find that they're having trouble keeping up.

That latter model seems to be the preferred one around here, and while I was once in the camp that education-through-argument is how communities progress, I have been brought around to the belief that education-through-openminded-spectating is a much better way of doing things.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:56 AM on August 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the counter-argument, AOANLA :) Seriously, I need that information. Thanks for taking the time to spell it out.

I'm not sure everyone knows enough to know they should engage in openminded spectating, but as a whole, the culture seems to be progressing. With notable hiccups.
posted by amtho at 1:48 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm glad to have been able to pass on the lesson, amtho. I learned it right here on MetaFilter. Hopefully it will continue to spread and it will become entrenched as a community norm such that people will be more likely to learn it organically through their general participation here. :-)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:06 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


(In case it's not clear, I'm sincere.)

I've been on here a while, and I noticed that that kind of questioning/commenting was squashed, but it was driving me crazy because I didn't understand why.

I mean, I understood that it was a burden to people to have to explain stuff that was obvious to them. In this moment I think I understand it a bit more vividly. I didn't know that there was as much of a structured thought process behind it; that makes me feel better about the whole thing.

I hope there's somewhere that people my 60-year-old friends who don't understand "the big deal" about various issues can go to find preexisting information on it, though. Other than just Googling -- it's hard for them to a) have the idea in the first place, and b) know what search terms to use. Somethink like Snopes.com for social issues...
posted by amtho at 2:18 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I totally took you to be sincere, no worries. My reply was also sincere. It's a bit telling that we feel like we have to be super explicit about saying that our thank yous and your welcomes are not sarcastic, but I guess that's the world we find ourselves in.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:15 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think it's worth having this thread. The rate of food allergies has massively increased in the last 20 years (I've heard 3-5x), no one is exactly sure why, and our society is going to have to adapt to make sure the new young adults who are affected can actually participate in common activities like eating out. Schools have adapted over the last 20 years, and restaurants are going to have to adapt over the next 20 years as those kids grow up.

I do think the restaurants have to bear responsibility, not individual staff. The restaurant can provide training, institute procedures, and carry a hefty insurance policy for when things go wrong. Punishing an individual waiter accomplished nothing other than pure retribution.

I wonder if someone could set up a business selling shrinkwrapped, professionally prepared allergen-free meals to restaurants that could then serve them when one patron in a group has allergies. But it would have to be pretty expensive to be profitable.
posted by miyabo at 8:29 PM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


The way things are now, it's not safe for black people to go out at night isn't equivelant to the way the world works now, the allergy sufferer needs to be the final line of their own defense.

It's more equivelant to "the way the world works now black people need to stay indoors". It's telling people how they should behave to survive in "the world". The first one implies a more temporary situation, and describes the situation; the second states that this is how the world works and this is what you need to change about your behavior if you want to live in it. Big difference IMHO.
posted by Iteki at 6:40 AM on August 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


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