Friday Question of the Day? “Should I have just waited patiently?”

parking
Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

“Dear PoPville,

We had made dinner reservations and were having a hard time finding parking. We were five minutes past our reservation time so we decided to just pull into a garage and park. It was an early dinner because of some travel, so a lot of the street parking wasn’t open yet.

At first we didn’t see anyone in the attendant booth at the garage, and then we saw the attendant stand up. He was clearly doing his evening prayers as he bent back down again and so forth a few times.

I am all for respecting the religious beliefs of others, but after a while I got a little annoyed because we were already late for dinner and no one else was there to help us, so I tapped on the window to get his attention (even though I know he had seen us). He finished up and helped us with our parking and two other guys came to get their car shortly after I had tapped on the window.

So, my question is, should I have just waited patiently? Was it rude of me to interrupt him? Should he have cut short his prayers when he first saw me? If you are in a service position and the only one there, should you really be taking time out to pray? How would others have handled this situation?”

75 Comment

  • “We” implies that there was possible more than one adult in the car. If that was the case, I would have sent the passenger into the restaurant to let them know the rest of the party was parking, but that you were there. Since you were already a little late, this at least gives them a heads up.

    I probably wouldn’t have interrupted the prayers, but that’s just me. It’s similar to someone being on the phone when you walk into the reception office, sometimes you just have to wait.

    However, situations are always nuanced and it seems like uou both took it in stride and went about your business.

    • This is exactly what I was thinking.

    • If I walk into an office and it is obvious that the receptionist is on a personal call, I interrupt without a second thought. Heck, if I walk out of my office to ask my assistant something and she’s on a personal call, I interrupt – or rather, she sees me, says “can I call you back” and hangs up. And if my boss walks into my office and I’m on a personal call, I do the same thing.
      .
      Now, I realize that evening prayers are quite a bit different than gabbing about what to have for dinner tonight, but the principle is the same. I don’t see a problem with interrupting the parking attendant to ask him to park your car.

      • Aren’t prayers just like a personal call – albeit to your deity of choice? 😉

      • What happens if you walk into your boss’ office and he is on a personal call? Do you interrupt? All your examples included a power structure hierarchy where the higher the position, the ability to determine what the lower position may do with his or her time. This leads the question of, in the social hierarchy, did you automatically believe yourself to be of a higher position than the attendant and as such having every right to determine what is and is not an appropriate use of his time?

        • Yes, PettyShabazz, because these people in question are hired for customer service.

          • dcd’s comment implied that this is an acceptable behavior as long as your perceive yourself to be of a higher station than the person you are doing it to. I questioned if they would do this to someone they perceived to be of a higher station than them. The issue isn’t what people are hired to do but rather do you base how you may treat someone on their station in life.

          • Of course this is right. I am a customer of a business, he is an employee of that business. I don’t have the right to micromanage his day, but I do have right to expect he do his job and not attend to personal matters while on the clock. This manifests itself everywhere – when a client calls me, I answer. Period.
            .
            I am curious – what other answer to this question could there be? The service employee has the right to determine when he’ll get around to doing his job, and the person paying for the service just has to wait for it, with no control at all? That service model has (unfortunately) become accepted in some discrete areas such as retail telecommunications (I’m looking at you, Comcast) – it’s not a coincidence that those areas have the lowest customer satisfaction rates of any business, anywhere.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I basically agree with dcd here, but I think there is a lot of room for gray area, e.g., if this employee was not supposed to be working at that time but was basically “stuck” working during prayer time due to some form of management failure (e.g., got called in at unusual time or was not allowed to leave at usual time due to other employee not showing up). I think your duty to your client is a fundamentally different thing than this individual person’s duty to the parking public and arguably is more similar to the garage owner’s duty to the parking public.

        • “The issue isn’t what people are hired to do but rather do you base how you may treat someone on their station in life.”
          .
          I disagree – it’s exactly about what someone is hired to do. This isn’t about anyone’s station in life, real or perceived, it’s about acceptable customer service. I work with plenty of people who probably have a “higher station in life” (whatever that means) than I do, but if am hiring them to do something, I expect them to do it. This really isn’t that complicated.

          • I disagree, because as I pointed out, you would not do this to your boss, who presumably is also hired to do a job.

          • Are you really this unclear about the relationships involved here? No, I don’t tell my boss, or my client, to get off the phone, though I do get off when they call/come into my office. This has nothing to do with some idealistic perception of “standing in life” – it’s cold reality that if you are working for someone, during work hours you need to be responsive to them, and defer your personal business. In the context of that particular relationship, that is the appropriate thing to do. If you disagree, that’s your prerogative, but I’d keep the resume updated if I were you.

  • Interrupting is fine, prayers can be made up. Most folks are fairly pragmatic about it.

    • Are you Muslim or know a lot about the faith? Genuinely curious as I don’t know much about prayer protocol.

      • I don’t either, but I imagine a Muslim police officer or firefighter has no qualms about abandoning his prayers to respond to an emergency. If you accept a job where you have to be available at a moment’s notice you must be ok with the possibility of prayer interruptions.

  • That One Guy

    If you’re looking for validation go elsewhere. You see someone actively practicing their religion-joining others in a chain of prayer that circles the world-and consciously decide to prioritize your value system over theirs at such a base level, necessity to feel satiated with food.

    • This is a troll post, right?

    • +1

      And next time, you should call the restaurant 5 min before the appointment to confirm your arrival and buffer yourself and additional 10-15 min.

      I do that all the time. “Good afternoon, I have a 5pm reservation but I am running a tad late looking for parking, I expect to arrive……”

    • Alternatively, You see someone praying to a fictional deity while getting paid to do his job and provide a service to you that you are paying for, yes interrupt because frankly your value system is the only one that matters when you’re paying for a service to be provided.

  • 5minutes won’t make you lose a reservation. Most people are late in DC- blame traffic or parking.
    Yes, interrupt away. If someone wants to exercise their religious freedom it must be done outside work hours and their employer must accommodate them, not you.
    This will be unpopular, but we live in a busy city where my time is just as valuable and scarce as the next person. I respect that and so should they.

    • +1. This person is getting paid to do a job and serve customers as they come, not to pray.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I agree with your main point here, i.e., that it is up to this person’s employer, not the customer, to accommodate him. Personally, I wouldn’t have interrupted him, but I also agree that if this is something that the employee must do (I will not question whether it is or “should be” – that’s not the point), the employee and his employer or at least his co-workers need to make some arrangement to have the position covered.
      .
      Basically, yeah, something needs to be worked out that the garage does not cease operation altogether, but people shouldn’t be assholes to each other either.

  • Why didn’t you call as soon as you realized you’d be late? It sounds like a you problem that you want to pin on someone else.

  • I personally don’t have much patience for public displays of religiosity, but I’m also fairly comfortable with a certain level of being rude in my impatience.
    .
    Were you being rude? Yeah probably. Were you justified? Completely depends on how you’d react with the roles switched. Not having any religious practices myself, I can only analogize to some other moment of personal contemplation, and I can’t really imagine I’d feel hard done by to have that interrupted by my professional obligations. But if you would personally be upset by an analogous interaction, then you didn’t treat him as you’d wish to be treated, and you’re probably in the wrong.
    .
    I agree with jeexpf though, sending your companion in would have been the path of least resistance.

  • Prayer takes roughly seven minutes from start to finish. If you had interrupted my prayer, I would have considered you ignorant, but not rude.

    • I’m trying to be reasonable. That’s about the length of time as a bathroom break. It would seem that most employees and employers should be able to accommodate similarly and plan for the downtime.

      • What are you doing in the bathroom for 7min?! That’s roughly the length of my lunch break.
        I’m with Millenia above… when you’re on the clock, you’re there to work not pray.

        • Haha, I actually agree about the bathroom break. My bathroom break is maybe 3-4 minutes max.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Starting from the booth in the parking garage, a bathroom break may well entail a long walk or possibly a long wait for a slow elevator. I would be massively impressed if the parking garage guys in my building could get from their station to the nearest restroom in under 2 minutes one-way. Thus, yeah, if they have to poop–which most of us do sometimes–it is completely plausible that they’d be away from their station for 7 minutes.

        • I think parking garages are one of those services that an employee should always be available for. If the attendant has to go to the bathroom, or eat lunch, or pray, there should be backup.

          • And if there isn’t backup? If the garage owner is too cheap? What then? Screw that poor sucker, he shoulda got an education so he didn’t have to work in a parking garage, right?

          • Then the garage owner isn’t running his business properly and will hopefully lose and/or employees customers because of it. Same as any other business that’s understaffed.

          • wdc makes a very good point. You know, the thing about employment laws and regulations is that they are awesome when they are enforced. But many, many employees will not make complaints against their employers out of fear of retaliation. This is particularly true of low-wage workers. So while, yes, if the employer was not covering his prayer times, then hopefully he or she will face the consequences of that; but what is more likely is that a poor soul will have their rights tread on by the employer and be the one at the front line taking heat from customers.

  • The interruption was totally acceptable. A: It’s not work-related like a receptionist on a phone call, where a reasonable person understands that sometimes one’s own business has to wait for someone else’s. B: This guy works in a situation where he may be interrupted at any moment, and was probably not surprised by it. In fact, he’s probably quite practiced at balancing his job and his prayers. C: It sounds like you were reasonably patient and did not make a big deal out of it. You didn’t know how long he was going to be delaying the essential function of his job for an extra-curricular activity, so a polite tap on the window is a reasonable signal to him.
    The earth is not going to stop spinning if someone’s prayers are interrupted by having to do their job.

  • Is it really that hard to call the restaurant? Yes, they are service professionals there to do a job but that doesn’t erase their humanity. They may need to go to the bathroom or pray or deal with another driver. You may have to wait for a few minutes. Is it really that hard to see those that work in service jobs as people? Can you justify what you did? Of course. But if you showed some patience and respect for someone other than you, despite being in a hurry, I would assume you probably wouldn’t have had to send something to a website for validation.

    • I agree, the fact that you put your dinner reservation before someone’s religion is bad enough, but on top of that you’re obviously seeking validation for something you know was wrong.

    • 1. That OP was late to the restaurant reservation is kind of irrelevant here. Even if not late, the question remains of whether to tap on the window or not. I would have no idea if the person knew I was there or how long the prayers would last, etc. I would have tapped regardless.
      2. That the person in question works in the service industry seems also irrelevant. I do not work in the service industry, but I cannot imagine any clients of mine caring about that if they need me and I am busy praying during business hours. I do not think this is matter of seeing someone as a person.

      My opinion to OP is that you do you. I have no doubt the attendant has been interrupted before. This is simply part of living outside of a theocracy that sometimes your religious practices give way to the rest of society.

  • Personally, I would not have interrupted his prayers. Yes, it is the employers responsibility to provide for religious accommodation, however, many employers do not do this, especially for low paid employees like parking attendants. I also think that it is common courtesy that when you see someone is busy with something else, you allow them to finish what they are doing. It’s fine to make your presence known, so that they can finish up sooner, but it’s not right to just barge in because you feel your time is more important than theirs.

    • In this case, I suppose he could have called the restaurant to give them a heads up and waited until the attendant was finished.

      But generally, this: “it is common courtesy that when you see someone is busy with something else, you allow them to finish what they are doing” is just not how the customer service industry works (fwiw, I worked in customer service for many years).

      • Yeah, I don’t think going into a business establishment and expecting the employees of that establishment to perform the services advertised can reasonably be considered “barging in.”

      • I really think the issue here is that I am too nice a person for this city any more. I do not walk around thinking I am entitled to have everyone drop everything and help me because I am the customer. There are many, many reasons someone may not be able to stop immediately to help a customer. To just assume otherwise seems rude to me. It also seems like a great way to give yourself a bad day.

        • “I do not walk around thinking I am entitled to have everyone drop everything and help me because I am the customer.”
          .
          You walk into a business, and don’t expect the employees to “drop everything” and help you because you’re a customer? I really don’t get this, at all. When I sit down at a restaurant, I expect the wait staff to come over and take a drink order, not finish their conversation with fellow employees or their Instagram post. When I walk into an office, the receptionist should assist me, not take five minutes to finish the email she’s composing. If a client called me now, I wouldn’t ask him to hold until I finished this PoP post. This isn’t being rude, overly demanding, or even demanding at all – it’s expecting that business satisfy basic customer service standards.
          .
          Now, you can argue that this situation is different because it was prayers, not some frivolous personal activity – not sure how I feel about that, but it’s a reasonable position.

          • dcd, I think that the difference between us here is outlook; I don’t automatically assume that someone is doing something frivolous with their time and that’s why they can’t assist me. When I enter a restaurant, I’m happy to wait a few moments for the waitress to see me, finish what she’s doing if she’s with another customer or already in the middle of assisting another customer. If I enter a store, I don’t expect someone to be right there asking me if I need something when they may be in the middle of stocking or again, helping another customer. I do allow people time to finish their train of thought if I walk up and they are in the middle of typing, or on the phone. To me, that is common courtesy.
            .
            Now, if someone is on the phone gabbing away to their girlfriend or gossiping, then yeah, wrap it up and deal with your customer. If tow waitresses are standing in the corner taking selfies instead of helping? Yes, by all means, do your job.
            .
            There has to be a balance between basic customer service and common courtesy.

          • Well, of course, if they’re in the middle of another business activity, you wait your turn. No one expects an employee to drop helping one customer because another walks in. But, (i) your original statement didn’t make this kind of differentiation – in fact, “but it’s not right to just barge in because you feel your time is more important than theirs,” implies that s/he was engaged in a personal activity, not a business one; and (ii) in this situation, the parking employee was manifestly not engaged in a customer service or other business activity.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I find nothing unreasonable about dcd’s position nor Anonamom’s position here.
            .
            It is quite possible that there was supposed to be another parking attendant covering for this one during his prayer time but that the other guy no-showed his shift or had to leave early to care for a sick child or something, and that perhaps the parking lot attendee who prays ordinarily goes elsewhere to do so in private but elected not to, even though he could have and usually does, since nobody else was there to cover for him. Heck, maybe this guy ordinarily works a different shift to avoid working during his prayer time, but agreed to fill in for another co-worker at the last minute, perhaps or perhaps not with an agreement from co-worker or boss that somebody else would come cover for him during prayer time, which did not materialize. Perhaps his shift ended an hour ago but his relief was a no-show and the only reason he didn’t just leave when his shift was over was because he’d rather leave customers high and dry for 7 minutes than for the rest of the night, or because his boss would have fired him even though he should have been free to go. There’s a lot we don’t know here.
            .
            I perform a service function as a volunteer at my church. I am very frequently interrupted while praying, at times when I am not on duty, because other people are used to seeing me thinking, “Oh, there’s Haile! He can help!” I still do help them, because I try not to be a jerk to other people, but sometimes it bothers me quite a bit.

      • Texting on their phone, yes? Snap-chatting, yes? Gossiping with your home girl, yes? Doing a crossword puzzle, yes.

        But a worldly recognized prayer ritual, maybe wait a few min and send in your guest to confirm your arrival.

    • “I also think that it is common courtesy that when you see someone is busy with something else, you allow them to finish what they are doing.”

      Absolutely – if it were work related. If a receptionist is on the phone with another customer, if a hostess has several parties at the stand and can’t seat me immediately, etc. These are all scenarios when it’s OK and I understand. This was not work related so I expect to be helped immediately.

  • The prayers you speak of don’t take very long. I would’ve just waited. Most restaurants aren’t going to turn you away if you’re less than 15 minutes late for a reservation.

  • Why do you need external validation? It doesn’t sound like the attendant was annoyed and it doesn’t sound like you missed your reservation.

  • :insert picture of statue of the man holding his head in hands:

  • I think the fact that you’re asking the question to begin with says that next time you will call the restaurant or send your dinner companion ahead and not interrupt his prayers. There are reasons it is acceptable for you to have done so, and there are reasons it is not, but it sounds like you were uncomfortable with doing so which means it doesn’t really matter what anyone else here says.

  • A G Gardiner was prescient about your predicament that he wrote a story about it in early 1900s. Recommend reading his “All About A Dog”.

  • I really don’t like any prayer or religious stuff in public. I think it should all (ALL — not any single religion) be banned. I even resent it when my family holds hands at the beginning of meals while they utter a few words to their supernatural being. That stuff should be done in the privacy of your own home behind closed doors.

    • You should move to France. They kind of hate that stuff too.

      Honestly, I’m an atheist who doesn’t love it, but I also respect that it doesn’t really impact me personally and so if it doesn’t, why should I care or want someone else to care on my behalf (i.e., the government)?

      I would care, however, when I am waiting to pay to be served and someone is prioritizing it over their job.

      • That, or if it’s really disruptive. Like there’s a guy at my metro stop that sings Jesus songs at the top of his lungs. I don’t think that’s appropriate and I don’t think he should be allowed there as if he’s just another street performer.

    • I agree! If I don’t believe in something or if I feel uncomfortable with something I think people should accommodate my discomfort and do it in the privacy of their own homes. Feel the same way about gay people.

  • HaileUnlikely

    There are a lot of unknowns here.
    .
    Maybe there was supposed to be another parking attendant covering for this one during his prayer time but that the other guy no-showed his shift or had to leave early to care for a sick child or something, and that perhaps the parking lot attendee who prays ordinarily goes elsewhere to do so in private but elected not to, even though he could have and usually does, since nobody else was there to cover for him.
    .
    Heck, maybe this guy ordinarily works a different shift to avoid working during his prayer time, but agreed to fill in for another co-worker at the last minute, perhaps or perhaps not with an agreement from co-worker or boss that somebody else would come cover for him during prayer time, which did not materialize.
    .
    Perhaps this guy’s shift ended an hour ago but his relief was a no-show and the only reason he didn’t just leave when his shift was over was because he’d rather leave customers high and dry for 7 minutes than for the rest of the night, or because his boss would have fired him even though he should have been free to go. I was a cashier at a poorly-managed grocery store for several years in my youth (non-union, minimum wage, in a place and time when that was ~$5/hr). That is a horrible position for a responsible person who doesn’t like to let others down. There were times when my shift was supposed to end at 7 PM but I stayed until midnight because my relief hadn’t shown up.

  • Are you the kind of person who leans on the horn when the car in front of you doesn’t make it through the light? Because now YOU have to wait for a WHOLE light cycle before you can move again. So you’ll make everyone within 100 yards listen to your frustration. Because you.
    Prayer doesn’t take long. A lot of Muslims will even do an abbreviated version if they’re at work or otherwise pressed for time. You said he saw you. But you still interrupted him. Because you.
    You said “I am all for respecting the religious beliefs of others” but that is demonstrably untrue.

    • Unlike with traffic lights there’s an expectation when you park in a garage that you should be able to get in and out without delay. Especially considering how much you pay for the service.

  • As some of you may know, Muslims pray five times a day. The first (Fajr) is at Dawn, before the sun rises, and the remaining (four) are at various times throughout the day starting around/after Noon and going on intermittently into the evening after sunset. They basically have scheduled times that vary depending on the day because they are determined by the position of the sun. While it is true that a devout Muslim can make up one of the five obligatory prayers, devout Muslims believe that unless they are prohibited by illness or traveling or something of the sort, then they should do it at the required time. It doesn’t take long, and I would have waited. If the person praying recites any of the shortest prayers in the Qu’ran to minimize time, the entire prayer could have lasted five minutes or less.

    For the people who feel upset about public displays of religion, and felt that prayer should be limited to this person’s home. I disagree. Every religion has different manner of prayers Some people pray in their heads. Some bow heads and hold hands. Some prayers include ritualistic movements. Islam is in the latter group and in light of the time frame that these prayers occur, you basically are stating that Muslims should all work from home because it would be nearly impossible to work outside of the home, if all prayers were limited to that space. Unless the person worked the night shift, and even still, they still may have to pray at least once in a public space. I just think people should refrain from making general comments limiting the public practice of religion when they are unknowledgeable about every religious practice.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I agree with your conclusion, but in fairness to the jerks, who I did just call jerks nonetheless, there are a lot of things that we all don’t know, that we don’t know that we don’t know.

    • If anyone is interested… Sunni Muslims pray five times a day. Shia Muslims pray three times.

      • I consider myself pretty knowledgable about Islam, but didn’t know that. Interesting! The Shia seem pretty good at creating “loopholes” (other example being temp. marriages).

      • Thanks for sharing! I didn’t know that either and went to elementary/middle school with and have close friends (undergrad/grad) who are Shi’ite Muslims. I guess it never came up in conversation. lol

        • Well also, most Shia are in Iran, which has historically been more secular than some of its neighbors. The Pahlavis (shahs until the revolution, created the modern Iran) were very secular, and very pro-education. Also pretty despotic, but they did release a lot of the country from the grip of rigid Islam. So it makes sense that your Shia friends wouldn’t have talked much about religion. Among educated people, it’s not a big part of the culture.

  • I am normally someone who doesn’t really care about providing any kind of accommodation to practice religion, but like… prayers take a couple mins. They were already in progress, you were not going to be waiting more than a couple minutes. Use the time to call the restaurant and let them know you’re running a couple mins late, which you were anyway. Its not an amount of time that will make a big impact in your life, it’s not an emergency situation… I would just deal with it.

  • He is working and I would have laid on the horn if he saw me and ignored me to continue praying.

  • figby

    This isn’t a real question, it’s an anti-Muslim troll masquerading as someone who went to dinner once.

  • The place for uninterrupted prayer/meditation/etc is one’s home or house of worship.

  • The person praying is not concerned about how anybody feels about his praying, or even about whether one tries to interrupt him or not; he will not cut short his prayers. His concern is his duty to Allah, and that trumps all. Knowing this one’s best choice would be patience, as any negative reaction would come to naught.

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