Launching Pad (closed)

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We were all looking forward to lunch at The Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington, IL. The Drive-In is right on old Route 66 and is easily found if one looks for the Gemini Giant out front.

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Unfortunately, we don’t recommend looking for the Launching Pad, unless one is looking for it in order to avoid stopping in. There’s nothing in the outside appearance to justify this attitude: it’s a little rundown-looking, but not overtly scary or anything like that.

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Once inside, it seemed a little worn and not really friendly. The girl taking our order didn’t smile at all, which was off-putting (we’re big smilers in our family, I guess), but not actionable. The food arrived after a short wait, during which I heard one of the four women behind the counter say something about “this fall…but he’ll be in jail by then.”

“Oh, he won’t!” said one of the other women. “You just wait.”

“Well, he’d better not,” said (I think) the first one again. “Especially after I move in with him. He’s not going to like *something something* because I’m going to *I couldn’t hear this bit, either, but I felt a little sad for the guy in question*.”

Not really the most pleasant conversation, but again: nothing really scary.

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At about this point, a family started to enter through another door (not the one we had used). A few moments later, a tall and unhappy man strode in and said, loudly, “Y’all need to fix that door! It’s in bad shape. It tore my son’s toenail off!”

Now, at this point in the narrative, I’d like you, the reader, to pause and consider how you might handle this. You’re a restaurant in a small town. Someone who is most likely a regular (his kids were wearing softball uniforms and later on he referred to the owner of the place by name) is upset because one of his children has just injured themselves—significantly but not necessarily severely—on the door of your place of business. What do you say? How do you approach the matter?

The way that the staff at the Launching Pad approached it was with silence. Not stunned silence: apathetic silence. A heartbeat after the man had spoken, one of the older ladies said, referring to the door, “Well, what’s wrong with it?”

Note: “What’s wrong with it?” Not, “Is he all right?” Not “I’m so sorry.” No, just a question that implied that this man was an idiot.

“There’s a sharp piece of metal sticking out! It’s all jacked up on the one side, and it tore my son’s toenail right off!”

Again, nothing. No one moved to help, no one spoke. One got the feeling that they would have shrugged in disinterest except that it was too much trouble.

The man, now even more agitated, went into the other area of the Drive-In, towards the washrooms. A woman emerged, carrying a little boy, his foot wrapped in paper towels. The man took the boy in his arms, stalked back to the counter, and said, “You call [name of owner] and tell him that [his own name] is taking his son to the hospital because your door tore his toenail off.”

There was a slight muddle outside, as there were two grandparents there, as well as the boy’s two brothers. While this was happening, the women—either not knowing or not caring that we in the dining room could hear what they were saying—started talking in the most callous way about the incident.

“He was probably screwing around with the door. That’s what kids do.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that door.”
“If there’s something wrong with it, how come we can get in and out without hurting ourselves.”

This was accompanied by snickering and snorts of disbelief. The same woman who had asked, “What’s wrong with it?” so flatly now heaved herself off her rear and said, “Well, I guess I’ll go look at it.”

She wandered over, looked for a minute, and then came back to report, “There’s nothing wrong with the door. It’s the brush, the frame on the brush is a little bent.” Clearly, to her, the fact that this was technically part of the door was beneath notice. In her mind, this settled the issue.

Now, the two older adults of the family group came in, with the two other boys, to place an order—the mom and dad and injured boy already en route to the hospital. The woman said, “You need to get that door fixed.” She wasn’t shouting or rude, just matter-of-fact.

The older woman behind the counter replied (evidently unaware of the relationship at work here), “He was probably screwing around with it. There’s nothing wrong with the door.”

At which point the grandmother reared up and very emphatically said, “He was NOT screwing around with the door. That’s my GRANDSON and he opened the door and it ripped his toenail completely off.”

At this point, we had finished and gladly left the restaurant. Now, clearly, there was some grey area here. Those of us with small boys know that frequently, they aren’t as careful as they ought to be. They’re a bit accident-prone.

However, I was appalled at the callous disregard of the women behind the counter. They did not care that someone had been injured. They didn’t fill out any kind of incident report. They didn’t check to see whether they could help. They could barely be stirred to STAND UP and LOOK at the door. And on top of this, they proceeded to talk about this to other patrons, who happened to be related to the injured party.

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You know, the food was adequate. It was neat to be on Route 66 at a somewhat-historical restaurant. But I will never go into that restaurant again unless I have no choice or I see banners proclaiming “New Management and New Staff.” To be treated with disinterest as a tourist is (sadly) somewhat-expected. But blatant disregard for injury is another matter entirely, and I am sad that we had already given them our money and business.