Someone told me once – or maybe it was a fortune cookie – that the meaner the customer, the kinder one should act. I suppose the idea was that if Joseph Stalin walked through the door, our smiles would be so pleasant that we could win him over to democracy and the American Dream. It would have been an odd occurrence indeed if Stalin had decided to leave Russia and the grave and hopped a plane to Macon, Georgia just to get a Krispy Kreme donut, but it was, I presumed, the principal of the matter that counted.

In any case, this theory was finally put to the test one day when two bald, muscular men who would've looked more at home pinned against a police car on Cops entered the establishment, swaggering like they were drunk on their own egos. "I'm tellin' you, fella," the taller one said to his partner. "Dunkin' Donuts are the best out there. You had you one 'fore?"

"Naw, man," the shorter one replied. "Ain't-a once had 'em."

"Well I tell you, then. Dunkin' Donuts the best there is." At this point the two men were halfway across the dining area with the meanest possible look on their face. If there had been a line to the counter, I had no doubt that they would've shoved right through it.

But there was no line, and this theory remained unproved. "Heya, lady," he said to me. "I come to get me some donuts." The man somehow managed to make these seemingly innocent words into a threat, as if to say, Just give me the donuts and nobody gets hurt. Clichéd, sure, but then, he didn't actually say that.

It took me about half a second, but I managed to fight off a "get lost, you bugger" look. "Of course, sir," I said, assuming the most pleasant demeanor I could muster. Within seconds my mouth was aching from the ear-to-ear smile it had taken on. "Would you like a half-dozen or a dozen, perhaps?"

"Hey, don't smart-talk me, lady. Me and my buddy here just want us some donut. A glazed donut and an éclair oughta do it."

My smile remained, though inwardly I was fighting the urge to strangle to two men. If offering excess donuts was a crime, I'd have been prosecuted quite a while ago; it was my job, after all. "Of course." I retrieved a bag in which to place the requested donuts and offered them to the man. "Here you go, sir. Would you like something to drink?"

"Hey, don't talk back to me, missy. How 'bout a coupla frozen coffees."

"I'm sorry, sir, we don't serve frozen coffee."

"Eh? What kinda Dunkin' Donuts is this? Just forget the drinks."

I complied and handed the man the bag, with the Krispy Kreme logo printed large on the surface of the paper. "Enjoy your donuts, sir."

"Don't tell me what to do, miss," the tall man said, grabbing the bag from my hand. "And don't 'spect a tip, neither, since you wouldn't give me no frozen coffee."

By now I was seriously fighting the urge to hit the man, and also contemplating the possibility of informing him that he was actually being served by Dunkin' Donuts' main competitor in the donut market. But both may have compromised my pleasant demeanor, which I decided I must maintain at all costs. "That'll be four twenty-eight," I said.

"Yeah, yeah," the main muttered, pulling the money out of his pocket. "I can read the little screen, lady."

"My apologies, sir."

"Don't smart off to me, woman." The man slammed the money down on the counter and swaggered away. "I love me some Dunkin' Donuts," he muttered to his friend as they took their table. "Love them Dunkin' Donuts."

"You forgot your change and your receipt, sir," I called, remaining pleasant.

"I don't forget nothin'," he called back. "Keep the stupid change."

That suited me just fine; he had gone back on his promise not to tip me, and I certainly wasn't complaining. But his meanness bothered me – I had employed the most pleasant demeanor I thought possible, and he had still treated me like dirt. If you can't convert some street trash, I suppose you have no hope of converting Joseph Stalin; but then, if there is a Hell, and Stalin is there, I find it unlikely that he'd be allowed to leave for the sake of a donut or two.

Soon two rather kind-looking police officers entered and approached the counter. Their demeanor was plenty pleasant, so mine remained neutral. "Good afternoon, sirs. Could I get you something?"

"Three glazed, three chocolate iced, please," one of the officers said.

"Hey John," the other whispered, gesturing at the table where the mean men sat. "See those two?"

"I'm trying to order here, Robert," the first cop said, his eyes rolled. "Can we get two small coffees as well?"

"Of course." I turned around to pour the coffee. As I did so, a loud clatter arose behind me. I spun around to see the two cops wrestling the mean men to the ground. So I had been right – they did look at home on Cops. The tall man was thrashing, knocking over chairs and tables and spilling napkins and drinks all over the floor.

The man looked more scared than mean now, and my demeanor adjusted accordingly. "Hey! Not in here! Take your crap outside!"

The man stared at me for a moment, attempting in vain to feign defiance. He gave up finally, and let the officers handcuff him and walk him and his partner to the door. "All I wanted was some stupid Dunkin' Donuts," he muttered.

"Hey, hey! This is Krispy Kreme!"