They're amazed, outraged, puzzled and perturbed out there in Readerland. Let's take them in that order.
AMAZED: Street people may not look pretty, or smell pretty or act pretty. But they're still people, and once in a while they're paying customers, not beggars. That's the way it started, anyway, at a Roy Rogers Restaurant at Connecticut Avenue and N Street NW one recent afternoon.
A street person with money in his hand walked in and approached the service bar. An employe ordered him out, without giving a reason, according to two witnesses.
The street person objected, whereupon the employe punched him in the face, picked him up and tossed him out the door. According to the two amazed witnesses, Andrew Lengel and Susanne Thevenet, the man landed in the gutter. He suffered several cuts and bruises.
The problem of street people eating in (or panhandling in) downtown fast-food restaurants has been with us for a long time. And it's hard not to sympathize with the restaurants. They want to serve everyone. Yet they also want to provide a pleasant environment for their customers. To be downwind of a guy who hasn't bathed in a month, especially when you're trying to eat, is hardly heaven.
But neither is getting the heave-ho for absolutely no reason. The behavior of the Roy Rogers employe was clearly out of line. But would Corporate Roy do anything about it? Neither witness was willing to bet on it.
They should have. According to Mary Maguire, public relations manager for the chain, the employe was fired a few days later, after an investigation based on Andrew's and Susanne's calls. "This is an isolated, crazy thing," said Mary. "It certainly does not happen all the time in Roy Rogers Restaurants." Let's hope not.