Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Story for You: We Go to Lunch, We Wait. And Wait. And Wait. As Six Tables That Arrived After Us Are Served.

A story for your consideration today, which I shared recently with my circle of friends on Facebook: a few weeks back, Steve and I head out for a quick lunch over his lunch hour. We want to combine having lunch with shopping at a Habitat for Humanity "re-store" as Steve and his brother continue their project of building a new bathroom onto our house. We have found some very nice items (at good prices) for the bathroom at this "re-store," including a door and some light fixtures. 

Since our lunch-hour plans are ambitious, it's obviously important that we eat at a restaurant that will serve us quickly. We choose a barbeque place near the Habitat store. My aunt had introduced me to this restaurant some years ago, and when we happen to be in that part of town — which is far from where we live — we have occasionally stopped in for lunch.

We order, nothing fancy that should demand exorbitant time from the kitchen — a sandwich in my case, a rib plate in Steve's. And then we wait.

And wait. And continue waiting. As we watch six tables that had arrived after we did receive their meals.

Once, during the 45-minute wait, the waitress passes by and apologizes for the delay, without explaining it. At this point, Steve asks if she can ring the meal up so he can pay for it. He can see that we're not going to have time to shop, and if the food doesn't arrive soon, he'll be late for his return to work. (I wish he hadn't paid for the food; I'd have preferred just to walk out, leaving a dollar for the glasses of tea I had drunk as we waited.)

The food finally comes. We then ask for to-go boxes and we we take it with us. Steve has no chance to eat at all. I eat my sandwich when I'm back at home. The shopping trip is now out of the question, of course.

As I told Facebook friends when I shared this story on Facebook, I can imagine that I sometimes come across as a chronic complainer or as paranoid, when I suggest that treatment like this can (and in fact is) dished out to gay couples in restaurants in places like Little Rock. This has happened to us on, well, more occasions than I care to remember.

In some cases, we have sat and waited for a menu and, when it never arrives, we just walk out. And this has happened not only in Little Rock. We had an experience just like this in Richmond, Virginia, last May. I wrote the restaurant afterwards. Never had an acknowledgment of my letter.

I have written repeated letters to places in Little Rock that have treated us in this way. On more than one occasion, the manager or owner is horrified to learn that any of his/her employees is capable of such behavior towards any patron. It is very plain to us in some cases that the wait staff who treat us with disdain are doing so due to religious beliefs, and it's not surprising to me that many restaurant owners or managers would be oblivious to the way in which some of their staff can tailor their treatment of customers according to what they imagine their religion dictates.

After I had shared that story, Facebook friends started sharing their similar stories — from Atlanta, New Orleans, from Little Rock — confirming my report. All said that they do, in fact, attribute this kind of treatment in restaurants (which all reported that they've received on more than one occasion) to deliberate, direct homophobia.

When businesses can already get away with treating visibly gay couples in this demeaning way — since what laws prevent such discriminatory behavior? — how much worse are things going to get as laws are passed permitting overt and direct discrimination on grounds of "religious freedom"? Is this what 60% of white Catholics in the U.S. wanted for their fellow human beings who are gay, as they voted Republican in the fall 2014 elections?

The graphic: a photo by Hungarian artist Bence Hajdu of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper," with Jesus and the disciples removed, from a Huffington Post article about his "Abandoned Paintings" series.

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