I’ve never believed that an unpleasant moment equates to a bad day. I’m characteristically two seconds from hype mode at any given time and cherish little things that produce big smiles. New experiences excite me, kind faces and helping others brings peace to my soul. While I’m certainly no stranger to the struggle, there are times I find myself in situations that I can’t process correctly, understand or accept. I had an experience like this recently and must say I’ve struggled to find the best way to share it with you. While situations like this aren’t rare in my life, to share it absolutely is.
With that said I invite you to sit back, grab your bourbon, and join me on what’s going to be a long story. Enjoy the uncut audio version here.
The Most Wonderful Foodie Time Of The Year
One of my favorite events in the city is Restaurant Week (RW). Each year I comb over every single menu, stacking them against each other to determine where I will dine. The event has transformed from an opportunity to get great deals at awesome restaurants, to a gathering occasion with my framily to experience something new together. Despite a plethora of options, there is always one restaurant that I go to no matter what. Now I don’t just visit this spot for RW, but there is a 87% chance that I definitely will during this special week because the prefix menu is always magnificent. This year was no exception.
In normal fashion, I booked my reservation ahead of time online and geeked out when the day finally arrived! Not only am I amped because I’m noshing at one of my favorite spots, but earlier that day I received stellar news! I landed an interview with the one and only Richard Blais! Y’all I was floating on clouds and oozing excitement. Bonus – I’m immediately seated at my favorite table when I arrive at the restaurant. YASSSS!!
My water is poured and my server arrives in short order with a small greeting and menus. I immediately flip to the cocktail section eager to explore what’s new. After I order a drink she goes straight to the ‘what will we be ordering tonight?’ phase. Solid! I’m hungry and ready to eat! She begins by telling me about the RW event and how it works. I smile at her politely because I know she doesn’t know I’m a pro at this, and I’m fine with giving her time to shine. As she wraps up her talk track she informs me that “gratuity is not included.” I quickly look up at her thinking “I don’t think I heard her correctly” but then she says it again. “The set price doesn’t include gratuity or drinks. Those items are extra.” I look at her disbelievingly and say “well that was a detailed explanation” because really, what else was I supposed to say. She quips back with “well I just wanted to make sure you knew gratuity, which is the tip, and drinks aren’t included,” and walks away.
And just like that I became unsettled. I’m not new to the eating out game. I’m an intelligent human. I dress well, comb my hair and wear shoes so why oh why did this chick just tell me not once, not twice, but thrice that I needed to make sure to tip her?!? After a few minutes I pick up my phone and message the sweetest southern boy I know to tell him about the situation and ask if I was losing it. Within seconds I received a response that made my heart sink.
I’ve never been told that.
There I sat, stuck on stupid, staring at my phone wondering what just happened to me. I immediately made excuses to him as to why she said it. Maybe it’s a new thing here and they are required to notify all guests of gratuity. No. Perhaps she is just that informative to all patrons… even though I haven’t heard her mention it to anyone else. No.
As the night wore on, I tried to ignore the disquieting thoughts in my mind. As I went through each course, fake smile received, and quick glance at my table, I failed. I told myself “You can get up and leave. Just get up and leave!” but I didn’t want to. I love this place! I debated asking for a manager, but my heart was so heavy and my mind so jumbled, I didn’t want to start the conversation. I didn’t feel like “proving” something had occurred. That I wasn’t overreacting or being too sensitive and asked to “just let it go.”
See this is the typical reaction towards people of color when we voice concern regarding inferior treatment because of our skin.
We also get questions and statements like:
- Are you sure you’re not exaggerating the event in your mind?
- Maybe that person is have a bad day and it has nothing to do with the color of your skin.
- They could be that way with everyone.
- I think you’re being sensitive.
- I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing.
Please don’t think I’m unaware that greater injustices occur each and every day. This isn’t the most hateful experience I’ve had, and tragically it won’t be the last time I’m judged or treated unfairly based on a preconceived notion of color, gender, or religion. I’ve looked back on this experience, wondering why I allowed myself to stay in an environment that I didn’t feel comfortable. I know most will think this wasn’t a big deal. Now if someone else told me this situation I would say “but you felt uncomfortable and that’s all that matters! You were treated unkind and they should know about it!” As vocal as I am to fight the fine fight for those I love, when it came to standing up for myself, in this moment I lost my voice. I allowed myself to remain in a distressing environment because on a certain level, I didn’t know how to escape.
A friend of mine once said “you have to teach people how to treat you.” While this is one of my favorite sayings; I also know that some people are unteachable. They don’t want to unlearn prejudice and hate. These are the ones I pray for, the ones that bake in bitterness and have convinced themselves that rude behavior can be validated. I will never get used to injustice; I will never be comfortable with hate.
Love Conquers All
A few days later the above mentioned friend reached out to me for more details on what occurred. I had a feeling something was brewing and later that evening I received an email from a manager at the establishment that led to a lengthy exchange of emails that can only be described as healing. I can never thank my friend enough for being my advocate. I didn’t have to ask – he was there. My anchor. This was seemingly such a small thing- incident – but his actions touched my heart deeply. He saw the need to speak up and did exactly that.
One thing that was evident from the beginning of the exchange is that the restaurant didn’t support the actions of the employee. They believed me without question and were mortified that I was treated so poorly. There was no doubt in my mind that they were shocked and ashamed about the encounter. I was asked back to the restaurant and had the pleasure of meeting this manager in person. He offered a beautiful apology and with tears in his eyes, thanked me for giving them another chance. This isn’t the type of kindness you find everyday.
This experience could’ve ended with me slighted, donning the town crier hat, proclaiming my vendetta never to darken their door again. Instead it’s a story of how of a restaurant when notified of the egregious actions of an employee, apologize profusely and mended the situation. They didn’t hesitate to do the right thing. Even more so, it’s a story about my sweet southern boy supporting me without question or pause. It’s about loyalty, friendship, and that tactless comments sting. At the beginning of the day, we are all people with feelings and a heart. We want to be treated fairly and with respect. We will never be able to control the actions of others. We can however, control how we act and be an advocate for those who have lost their voice, no matter if we think they (should) have it.
Be kind sweet people. I’ll see you around the city soon. <3