Monday, March 8, 2010
CHROME AND CROSSED SIGNALS
(photo by David Shankbone)
My partner and I go to a certain diner in our small town as often as we can. Outside, it’s all chrome, and has the design of a classic old diner, though it really wasn’t built that long ago. They play a lot of music from the 50s and 60s, and have an authentic soda fountain where they can make egg creams and such.
This diner’s first owner was our ex landlady. We liked her, and started going to support her business. But now, two owners later, we go because we still like the food and atmosphere. However, the story I’m about to relate happened relatively soon after the place first opened.
Late one afternoon we went there for dinner. Our waiter was new, an obviously gay man. As a gay couple ourselves, we were happy to see that they had hired Family.
We didn’t stay happy for long.
Mary Wells’s bouncy old love song, “My Guy,” came on. Another source of delight – we’ve both loved the song since our, ahem, long-ago youth. Our waiter, on his way to get our glasses of water, was dancing around to it. When he came back, he found us smiling and singing along.
This is when his attitude changed from civility to apparent seething hostility. He slammed our glasses down and scribbled our orders loudly on his pad with a scowl. When I ordered coffee, he pointedly asked, “Do you want that WITH your meal, or afterward?” This weird question foreshadowed treatment to come.
He brought our food when it came out, but otherwise haughtily ignored us. We each got one drink, and no offers of refills. Whenever either of us tried to get his attention, he would look away with a huff. Meanwhile, he lavished constant gushing attention on the table of ladies next to us, to show that his scorn was reserved specifically for us.
We were totally bewildered by his behavior. And, of course, we didn’t leave him a tip.
When we paid, our friend the owner was at the cash register. She asked, “How was everything?” I told her the food was great, as always. I was tempted to add, “but the service was horrible” – but some intuition stopped me. I just let the incident pass.
Later, I deduced what must have happened.
Our waiter’s gaydar must have been on the fritz. When he saw us smiling and singing along to “My Guy,” he apparently thought that we were having a joke at his expense. He took us to be straight and homophobic, laughing at him for dancing to the song. It wasn’t at all professional of him to punish us for that – a good waiter would have shrugged it off and ignored it. But at least I could understand why he reacted the way he did.
He didn’t last long at the diner, possibly not even at his profession – too thin-skinned, I’d bet. But for an obviously gay man, waiting tables in a Central PA Bible Belt small town diner must be a tough job sometimes. I’m glad it wasn’t us who got him fired.
-- © 2010 by Jack Veasey
All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced or duplicated in any way without the author’s written permission.