You Get All Kinds.
I thought about this for two days. I thought about not ever authoring this post, because the entire event is offensive, and stereotypical, in every possible way.
But, it's been nagging at me, not telling the story, since this is my diary about bartending, and to leave it out would be to omit the harsher realities of the job.
You just get all kinds.
A slow weekend night. Guy walks in, shorts, muscle shirt. First bar customer all night, and first time I've seen him. "Can I get a Crown and 7?" he asks. Thick, immediately apparent deep-Southern accent. He's polite.
After a few minutes, a four-top walks in, reservation, waiting on two more. Three men and one woman, all in decent suits.
I ask Guy if wants another drink. "Lots of suits and ties in here," he announces, loudly. Makes me want to say, "You realize that I heard that, and that you said it out loud, don't you?" Instead, I form a weak smile, he nods, and I fetch the Crown Royal.
Cocktail half-gone, he gets more talkative. He's friendly. His drawl gets more pronounced by the sip. He's missing his front white tooth... the kind of character details that can't go unnoticed. He's in town for a few weeks, working on a local project. A journeyman, staying at a kitchenette-motel down the road. His nomadic life is interesting to me, and I ask him where he's from, and where he's going.
From Selma, Alabama, originally, but he's settled in Jacksonville, Florida. I find common ground, and congratulate his bastard Jaguars for their victory over my revered and holy Bengals. He doesn't like Ohio one bit. "It's different up here, y'all aren't friendly, and I don't know anybody." He says he doesn't have a car, and wants to take a taxi somewhere fun. I recommend a short taxi ride a few exits north, where there's an entertainment district, movie theater, and bars.
"Would you find a lot of niggers up there?" he asks, sincerely. At least, that's what I'm 99.9% positive that I heard. I'm so shocked, that I'm questioning my own ears.
I turn away, and then turn back. I might have laughed out loud, but I do know for certain that everything just went into slow motion.
"I'm sorry...?" I say. I kind of stuttered, actually. I'm burning inside, I'm feeling incredibly offended and shocked, but I'm an Ohioan, he's a customer, and I have these instinctive manners. I damn them.
He starts to say it again, and then stops himself. He looks down at the bar and then away. The attractive woman in the suit has heard the exchange, and is now staring at me intently. I catch her eye as I try not to look at him.
It's the most awkward, uncomfortable moment I can remember in years of slinging drinks.
I'm polishing a wine glass, and I pull it close to myself as I move closer to him. I take a low, scolding tone. "Look, that's just not something you say... that's... I don't know, you just don't use that word around here." I likely wagged my finger at him, but I couldn't say for certain.
Here's the thing that makes me reluctant to write this post... I just always imagined I'd be so much more eloquent and forceful when confronted with racism. I thought I'd be like the heroine in a movie, so brave and backlit.
Instead, I was apologetic where I didn't need to be, and motherly, and ineffective.
He slurps down his drink, and to my surprise, he orders another.
The four-top suits are joined by their party, and anxiously request to be seated. They transfer their tab.
An uncomfortable silence passes, with me thinking, that was just awful, that whole thing. I can barely look at him.
When he finally pays and gets up to leave, he waves, smiles and hollers, "See you in a few days!"
Thirty two teeth in a jawbone
Alabama cryin for none
Before I have to hit him
I hope he's got the sense to run
Reason those poor girls love him
Promise them anything
Reason they believe him
He wears a big diamond ring
- Grateful Dead, "Alabama Getaway"