A (Tough) Love Letter to Out-of-Towners

By Sharon Byrne and Megan Orloff   |   September 21, 2021

A couple of months ago, we published a column with the intent to educate newcomers to our community on being a good neighbor, adapting to the Montecito lifestyle, and respecting what makes this community such a wonderful place to live.

Part of that “wonderful” are the businesses and local staff that help keep our restaurants lively, our shops on trend, and our community pleasant. Call it fallout from the height of tourist season in a pandemic, if you will, but there is a growing, disturbing sentiment about incidents we are witnessing where workers are treated, well… abominably. One hesitates to use a word so strongly pejorative, but for our little slice of paradise, if the shoe fits …

Two weeks ago, a friend really wanted to do Sunday brunch at a popular, locally-owned destination, complete with an amazing staff. We arrived to a 45-minute wait line down the block. The staff has always had a good system in place where you get a number in line, and that number identifies your assigned table when you complete your order. Simple. Friendly. Low fuss.

It was hot. It was over-crowded. I was hangry — a combination of hungry and angry — but willing to endure. My friend’s mom passed away a few years back, and this lovely local eatery was her mom’s beloved brunch spot. My friend was missing her mom, so brunch was a way to honor and reconnect with her.

The young girls in front of me were absorbed in TikTok on their phones, standing as an inward-facing circle, so they missed it when people behind us decided to cut the line in front of them. I directed the girls to close the gap and please face forward. Oh, and mask up — you’re going indoors now. Another couple behind us decided the much shorter to-go queue was their route to jump the line. I decided to intervene. I went up to them, clearly tourists, and asked what they were doing. They said, “Oh, we already have a table,” a lie, since the queuing system required that one get through the ordering line to get that table.

A staffer going by overheard me as I fumed loudly about the situation and he said, “I will handle this.” And he did! He informed the couple they had to get back in the long queue or leave the restaurant.

They tried to bribe him.

He refused the bribe.

That guy deserves a hug, a raise, and a big tip, but it’s the pandemic, so we’ll skip the hug. We love that he handled this so professionally, but are disgusted to learn this is now a regular occurrence, and that our always-friendly staff has to sharpen their elbows.

Who believes they have the right to come here, disrespect our local workers and fellow patrons, and queue-jump, just because they feel like it? Where is that ever considered the right way to behave? 

A great Montecito neighbor was appalled to witness terrible treatment of staff at another elegant top eatery long haunted by locals. Large parties turn up, without reservations, and then explode in anger when they can’t “just be accommodated” at the drop of a hat. They act as though they’re doing us all a favor, gracing us with their insulting and disparaging tactics. In Montecito, people don’t care how much money you do, or don’t, have. But we do care about how you treat our residents, our businesses, and each other.

We see it in new aggressive driving patterns, too. Stop signs and speed limits are not just suggestions. They’re the law.

A friend of mine has a sign in her gym at home: “You are not special.” Sometimes, and especially recently, we think it would make a great t-shirt.

An over-developed sense of entitlement is a narcissistic personality trait. Inflicting your sense of entitlement on locals who don’t know you, and have no obligation to you, is not humanitarian. Montecito and Santa Barbara have been through a lot together as a community, now on our third disaster in four years, this time a global pandemic. We know how to build community, and we have a terrific one!

In a disaster, you’re only as good as your neighbor who decides to help you. Or the worker that pulls you out of the earthquake rubble. Disaster is indiscriminate in its choice of victims. It’s the great leveling force, utterly indifferent to how rich or important you think you are. 

Think about that for a second before you go vitriolic on our local people, whether they’re your neighbors, or staff at our local businesses, whom we very much appreciate and support. These are people we know personally and care about. 

There’s an old saying that’s very appropriate: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Maybe try that as your first move.

We stand by and for our locals. And we are grateful for them, each and every day.


You might also be interested in...