SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Sara Healy

No Excuse

A few years ago, I was enjoying a late night dinner with my then boyfriend at the nearby Ihop. This restaurant serves breakfast all day and all I remember is smelling bacon and waffles that late at night. Since the restaurant is so close to my house, I tend to go there a few nights a week and the wait staff knows me pretty well. On this particular night, Jose, was our waiter. Jose is always very courteous, is very good at his job, and is very flamboyantly gay.

From where I was sitting, I could see that the booth behind my boyfriend was overly packed. There was a very quiet elderly couple sitting one side and on the other were another older man and two young kids, a boy and a girl, presumably his grandchildren. The kids were obnoxious. They were climbing all over the place and screaming and just making more noise than necessary. I could only imagine what the waiter was thinking about all this:

During work late one night, I had a few tables to wait on. In the first booth sat a regular customer of mine with her boyfriend. The booth next to them had a party that consisted of an elderly couple, another elderly man, and presumably his two grandchildren. The children were running amuck in the restaurant. They were climbing over and under booths, chairs, and tables and were being extremely loud and obnoxious. The elderly people appeared to be extremely frustrated at the annoying children, but did not do anything about it.

I remember Jose going over and asking how their meal was and if they needed anything else and the old man started yelling that Jose had messed everything up and nothing that they had ordered had been delivered. It was obvious the old man was annoyed with his grandchildren, but it was not necessary for him to take this out on the server.

A few minutes after delivering their meals, I went back over to check on them. The elderly man who was sitting on the left side of the booth started accusing me of messing up their order, as if I’d done it o purpose. I apologized for whatever was wrong in their order and left to go back to the kitchen to fix it. When I returned, the man would not even acknowledge that I was back or answer me when I asked if anyone needed a refill on the drinks. The little girl barked at me that she needed more milk in her children’s cup and when I asked her to take off the lid, since it is against health code regulations to do that ourselves, her grandfather grabbed it out of her hands very angrily and pulled it off himself, spilling it everywhere, which of course just enraged him more. At this point, I went and found my manager and told him what exactly had happened and how unhappy and difficult this table was.

As a waitress myself, it angers me when I notice people not treating the wait staff fairly. I kept listening to the conversation the old man was having with the other people at the table after Jose left and he preceded to trash talk his waiter. I was getting very upset listening to the garbage coming out of this man’s mouth. But I reached my limit when he started calling Jose a “fag” and making references to the fact that Jose is Mexican.

My regular customer, sitting in the booth next to the very discontented party, had expressed earlier how upset she was at how these people were treating me. She comes in a few times a week, so we often have conversations about how rude and strange customers can be, since she is waitress herself. I saw her approach my manager after she finished eating. I did not know what she discussed with him, but she clearly was troubled. Shortly after her conversation with him, my manager told me that he was taking over the table with the complicated party.

Immediately, I got up to find the manager and told him what I had witnessed. I explained that the old man was talking in a very derogatory way about Jose and had mentioned several times he didn’t like him because of his race and the fact that he was gay. I told him that Jose had only talked to the man and his guests with the utmost respect. I said no one should ever be treated that way. The manager said he appreciated me coming to him and explaining what I had witnessed and that he knew anything the man might tell him would be out of character for Jose.

The restaurant is located in Glendale, Arizona. The incident happened in a conservative state where not everyone is open to gay rights and where a lot of racial hate still occurs. The elder man obviously did not respect the waiter’s sexuality or race by the names he called him and the way he talked about Jose’s ethnicity. Homosexuality has been around since the dawn of time, but only in recent years has it been socially accepted. No on has the right to judge others based on how they want to live their lives. I found it appalling that only in 2001, China announced that homosexuality is no longer considered a disease. The fact that people would think that is disgusting. In America, the majority of people are against same-sex marriage. It seems that the state of California was the first state behind letting gays have rights they deserve since on September 19th, 2003 they passed a domestic partnership law and on February 15th, 2004 the city of San Francisco began marrying same-sex couples and then had to stop after the law changed again. Republican President George W. Bush quickly announced his support on an amendment to ban same-sex marriage on February 24th, 2004. Fast forward to a couple years ago and America repealed a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law, allowing homosexuals to serve in the military and now several states permit same-sex marriage. A little less than a year before my incident, Republican Governor Jan Brewer, signed a law called SB1070 regarding immigration and giving police officers the right to ask for “papers” based on racial profiling, which led to a lot of tension between supporters and those that oppose the bill in Arizona. Shortly after this, my incident occurred. Most likely all these events affected Jose and may account for why the elderly man used such derogatory words to insult the waiter. On June 24th, 2011, New York legalized same-sex marriage and saw an increase of homosexuals moving to the city. On May 9th, 2012, President Barrack Obama announced that he endorses same-sex marriage.

All these events suggest that the nation has had a change of heart on this situation. I think the issue of same-sex rights bothers me so much because everyone deserves the same rights regardless of their sexuality and no one should be judged based on how they were born or whom they choose to love. It is not something that they can really control. Regardless if the elderly man agrees or disagrees with the laws is no excuse for why he treated the waiter the way he did.

I think about this incident all the time. It is something that still upsets me to this day. I have a hard time understanding why the elderly man was so upset at the waiter and somehow managed to blame it on Jose’s sexuality and race, which had absolutely nothing to do with the situation. The fact that he is gay and/or Mexican does not even begin to determine whether he is capable of doing this job. Ultimately, I think this bothers me so much because I believe in treating everyone fairly and not judging them based on who they choose to love and the color of their skin.

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