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I have an addiction: I love any television show in which an expert (often British) turns up at a struggling business to yell at the owners until they are emotionally exhausted and mentally malleable. I gravitate toward the Kitchen Nightmares and Bar Rescue side of the spectrum, probably because I have a soft spot for loud condescension.
There's a predictable, yet comfortable, rhythm to these shows: we meet a business owner, the depressed family, the put-upon staff. We see the comedy of errors that is the operation in action. Then we watch with gleeful schadenfreude as the business owner is lambasted to a point just short of suicide. Once this break occurs, the expert revamps the business (and the owner), slaps on a new coat of paint, and rides off into the sunset, guns held high.
There's something satisfying about watching people get called on their shit. When Gordon Ramsay finds a pile of raw chicken breasts stacked on top of an angel food cake on the bottom shelf of the broken walk-in fridge, the excuse is always something awesomely laughable, along the lines of "We clean that refrigerator every week". It typically plays out like this:
Are you not entertained? I am. The only problem is the ceiling fan in my kitchen. It's filthy. And it's above my stove top and prep area. This is the kind of thing that lands you on one of these shows, getting screamed at by a middle-aged man with crazy eyes and an imposing build.
This is a consequence of a psychological phenomenon known as actor-observer asymmetry. Basically, when we judge our own actions (as actors), we tend to attribute them to a whole host of circumstances, but when we judge the actions of others (as observers), we attribute their behavior to their overall character. So when I watch an episode of Restaurant Impossible, I attribute the failures of the restaurant to the owner's failure as a human, but when I find a thick layer of dust and grime on my ceiling fan, I attribute it to external (and mitigating) factors.
I should probably mention here that the traditional attribution-based actor-observer asymmetry as described above was largely refuted by Bertram Mallle's 2006 meta-analysis of all published tests on the subject going back to 1971. So it's possible that I'm just an asshole, blaming everybody but myself.
Either way, I cleaned that gosh darn ceiling fan.
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