Bateman & Robbing

The call came in like any other. Someone wanted to order pizza. As a Pizza Delivery Guy, I immediately sprang into action. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really do much because the pizza still had to be made. Once it was made, though, I was right on top of things.

As I sped down the street in Pedro, my 1987 Hyundai Excel, I glanced at the order. The name on it was “Bateman.” I thought, “Bateman … Bateman … Bateman … Where do I know that name from?” Then it hit me: I had forgotten the breadsticks!

I raced back, obtained the bread in question, and was soon on my way again. By the time I reached the house, I had made the connection: BYU has a president named Bateman — Merrill J. Bateman, to be exact.

The door of the large, spacious house in the Indian Hills of Provo was answered by a man who was not Merrill J. Bateman. I quickly scanned his face to see if he could be a relative. He bore some resemblance to Merrill J. Bateman, insofar as they were both males and both had the regular features you’ll find on your standard face — nose, mouth, eyes, etc.

I was courteously admitted into the house, carrying four pizzas, four bags of breadsticks, and four containers of dipping sauce. I was shown into the kitchen area, where several women of various generational origins were sitting around the table. There were children frolicking in the backyard. It was obviously a family gathering of some kind. The man who appeared to be patriarch was bending down, picking something up off the ground. While still bent over, he said, “Where’s the checkbook?” He then stood upright, and there before my eyes stood Merrill J. Bateman.

I was unsure how to act. I didn’t know if I should say, “Hey, President Bateman, I go to your school,” because this is Provo, and nearly everyone my age goes to BYU, and well, frankly, so what? I thought of making a dumb joke like, “Gee, President Bateman, why are you buying pizza when you can eat at the Cougareat [BYU’s cafeteria] for free?” but I opted against that. I eventually decided to remain silent on the matter, since I could think of no reasonable way of bringing it up.

He found his checkbook and prepared to write a check. I told him the amount he owed was $35.64. He and the man I had determined to be his son made small talk with me. Merrill J. Bateman signed the check and sent me on my way with a friendly “thank you.”

I bounced out the door, excited over my brief brush with fame. Not since the MTC president had asked me to stop playing the piano so loudly had I felt so “in-touch” with a celebrity. Then I glanced at the check, written in Merrill J. Bateman’s own hand.

It was for $35.64.

The amount of the order.

No tip.

My world came crashing down around me. Images grew fuzzy. I stumbled to the car and choked back my tears as I fumbled for the ignition. I couldn’t find the gearshift. The gearshift mocked me.

I don’t remember the drive back to the store. I know that I when I arrived I had to be led by fellow employees to the back room, where I lay on the break table with a cold compress on my forehead for the rest of the evening.

Why hadn’t Merrill J. Bateman given me a tip? The order had arrived on time — five minutes early, in fact — and it was accurate. I had smiled and been pleasant. I wasn’t going to starve or miss my rent or anything, but it was the principle of the matter. Why hadn’t he tipped?

Perhaps he thought the “delivery charge” added to the price went to me, and not to the company. That’s not true, nor is true at any pizza place I know of — drivers NEVER get those delivery fees, they’re to cover company costs — but at least that would be a reasonable explanation for his not tipping.

Or maybe he’s one of those people who don’t know that you’re supposed to tip drivers. I’ve been surprised at how many people I’ve met in my everyday life who don’t know that. But surely a man of Merrill J. Bateman’s age and experience would have learned at some point that you tip pizza guys. But maybe not.

I’m over it now. The experience has hardened me, made me a little wiser. But mostly it has taught me the value of something, and reminded me that something is good, or something.


[ This column ran in the Daily Herald four years after I quit writing my column for them, and it did not appear under the title “On the Light Side.” It was a one-time thing; I include it amongst the other Daily Herald columns on this Web site merely because it fits in well.
This column was quite popular and well-requested among my peers for a few weeks in the summer of 1997. The entire incident is true, though I obviously over-dramatized some of it. (Also, truth be told, I couldn’t remember the exact amount of the purchase and had to make it up, but I know it was somewhere around $35.)
When I first told people at BYU’s Daily Universe, where I also worked, about it, everyone thought I should write a column. Frankly, I didn’t think it would be fair to publicize something embarrassing like that, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how funny it could be, and how he was, after all, a public figure. So I wrote it.
It was almost published in the next day’s Daily Universe; however, there was no appropriate spot to put a column like this, so they decided to hold it over for the next week’s editorial page. (I maintain that it doesn’t belong on the editorial page, since no opinion is expressed.) In the meantime, though, word got out that the column existed, and we learned that Bateman’s office had heard we were going to run it. We never found out whether Bateman himself knew, but his office certainly did.
Now it became a sensitive matter. It’s one thing to print something and then say, “Oh, did that bother you? Sorry.” It’s quite another thing to print something knowing in advance that it’s going to irk someone… particularly when that someone is the president of the university. So after much careful consideration, the Universe opted not to print it.
Fortunately, the Daily Herald (which is a city-wide paper, rather than just a college paper) has no such standards and ran it at the top of the editorial page — right where the “in-house” editorial, the official opinion of the paper, would normally go. Reaction was immediate and unfavorable; one woman called me on the phone the very night it was published, mere moments after it landed on her doorstep. At least one letter to the editor was received, and the editor told me he fielded several phone calls. A BYU professor with whom I was close told me he was in the BYU barbershop (yes, BYU has a barbershop) the next day and heard everyone in the place talking about the article and speaking ill of me.
This is approximately what I expected, of course. People who knew me generally found the article funny and harmless; others did not. Bateman himself never officially responded, though months later he assured a Daily Universe adviser that his gripes about Snide Remarks “had nothing to do with the pizza thing.” So he didn’t hold a grudge about it, anyway.
And I actually believe he didn’t hold a grudge. I dealt with him several times after that in a more official capacity with The Daily Universe, and he was friendly and amiable, though not always keen on the whole “humor” thing. We weren’t exactly best friends, but we respected each other, guardedly. I think he was a little weaselly and overly diplomatic; I suppose he thought I was a rabble-rouser and trouble-maker. Both of us were probably right in our assessments, to some extent.
Eric D. Snider and Merrill J. Bateman
Eric D. Snider and Merrill J. Bateman
These photos were taken in September 1998, over a year after this column ran, and you can see what good pals we are. The setting is the inaugural broadcast of the KBYU News from its new studios in the same office as The Daily Universe’s newsroom. Bateman was there, as were several other dignitaries, and there was a punch-and-cookie social afterwards. I happened to stumble into the newsroom and had a delightful chat with Bateman, which was caught on film by Universe photographer Michael Brandy. Note how in the second photo, Bateman looks like a drunk guy at a party who has me cornered, and I’m trying to escape.
But back to the column. Here is the text of the Letter to the Editor that was printed in the Daily Herald on June 19, 1997:
It was in very poor taste to run the guest editorial about Dr. Bateman’s tipping inadequacies. Eric Snyder [that’s how the writer spelled it, and no one at the Herald bothered to fix it], the pizza delivery boy, showed incredible lack of professionalism. I too had jobs while in college as a delivery man and a hotel bellman in the UCLA area. I came across strange perversions of the important and famous. But always: what they did, or ordered, or how much they tipped was only spoken of amongst my co-workers. Never would any of us think of going public with someone’s proclivities.
I loved “tip jobs.” There were always surprises. Please, Eric, tell us about the little old lady who ordered one pizza and gave a $5 tip. My son works as a pizza driver in south Provo and has many stories. True, he knows Indian Hills is a tipping wasteland. But that’s the fun. There are great people who always surprise you. But if this is not happening to you, then all I can say is — be professional. Get your eyes back in your head and quit prejudging. I would not tip an unprofessional driver, bellman or waiter. I’ve worked those jobs and know the difference. Perhaps Bateman saw this same unprofessional attitude.
But, things have changed from my UCLA days. Co-workers take sidelong glances to mean sexual harassment, the President’s private parts are spoken of [I assume he means here President Clinton, not President Bateman], flags can be burned, social security recipients drive Cadillacs while young marrieds drive ’87 Hyundais. But the line must be drawn and anyone who orders pizza should be free to be non-tipping, drunk, nude, or having toga parties without the pizza boy relaying this to the world.
Young Mr. Snyder, a future awaits you on the National Enquirer; or stay here, the Daily Herald may get there first.
Mike Schlegel, Provo.
I love this man’s logic. I’m “unprofessional” for saying that Bateman didn’t tip me, and Bateman didn’t tip me because I was unprofessional. ]