Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

F******* Faggot. A lesson in assertive tolerance.

Randy Granger
So and friend and I were on line at Genghis Grill here in Las Cruces, NM. It's a recently opened chain and I've eaten at them in other cities. We were in their "protein" section where you choose fish, chicken, meat etc. for your bowl. One of the employees dishing out the proteins (an African American younger guy) sees a friend in line after us. He says to him, "You look like a fucking faggot in that shirt." hahaha  My ears are jarred, like nails on a chalkboard, Rossane Barr singing,  I stop, walk back and say, "Excuse me did you just call him a fucking faggot?" He says, "Yes." I calmly yet with direct eye contact tell him that I was particularly offended by that language and was pretty certain the manager would be as well. I go on to say it isn't okay to use that word, and especially when you are an employee in a very public setting with paying customers. I explained it was as inappropriate as someone using the "N" word in his presence. Asked for his name.  We continued on a little more upset than we'd have liked and certainly not as receptive to a good meal digesting. On the grill line I hear a female employee telling another employee to “Fuck off.” I'm thinking, what the hell? I don't eat out much but this is not cool. I’m not a prude at all but I expect a certain level of restraint at a restaurant from employees not in the kitchen. Otherwise I'd hang out at a bar or sporting event to eat. Profanity changes the atmosphere. It makes it feel threatening, hostile. We’ve become accustomed to expect language that is profane, violent, demeaning as if we are all living inside the latest summer movie meets Breaking Bad.

I ask for the manager and get the assistant manager. I explain what happened to him. He is pretty shocked and apologizes. Soon after the GM comes to our table and asks what happened. I explain the story calmly yet I’m assertive saying it made our experience uncomfortable and in the age of Yelp, twitter and facebook it takes nothing for this to go viral. Heck, I have friends who post every interaction and critical review of everywhere they eat. Including whether or not the waiter had a cute butt.  The GM was upset too saying he feels like a baby sitter to 80 employees. Many of who are working their first paying job. My friend asks what kind of sensitivity training and protocols there are for these issues. He assured us there were many in place. He then bemoaned the quality of the work pool here in town where we live. A complaint I've heard over and over in our economically depressed area in the 47th poorest state. Still.  

The GM, my friend and I agreed that these are younger people, some employed for the first time, and that they joke like that often with each other. Even so we also agreed that level of unprofessionalism and lack of any type of awareness at having a job involving the public is--well not something we can do much about expect instance by instance demand better.

I decided to confront it head on instead of ruining our meal, seething and vowing to boycott and venting all over social media. I chose not to be victimized in that moment nor let my friend feel that way too. I had had enough of feeling like they business is doing you the favor allowing you to spend your money and descend to the level of rowdiness and private party atmosphere. The whole place felt like that as soon as we walked in so it shouldn’t be surprising. I mentioned this to the GM and he said it was a shift change. I asked if that was an excuse. He paused and said it was and that he was sorry for that.  I was impressed by how seriously the GM took our concerns. He came back several times and we chatted becoming more comfortable each time with his body language. He took the employee in the back and reprimanded him, pulled aside several other employees who were present and gave them a serious talking to from what I could read on their faces.

As if on cue, the "gay" employee brought us our bowls with a huge smile and warm greeting. He saw my name Randy on the ticket and said, "You're Randy GRANGER aren't you? I'm a big fan and have heard you several times. I love your music." That just further illustrated that I did the right thing by using the opportunity to educate rather than internalize the anger. We wanted to ask him what it was like to work there. We decided instead he is part of that generation and probably has developed some immunity as we did growing up and entering the work field.

The GM comped our desert, which was considerate of him but woefully inadequate.  That was my whole goal in the first place, of course, a free meal. I joke. All of us have a responsibility to address unskilled, hurtful,
bigoted, sexist comments when we hear them regardless of the intent of the person speaking. I offered to do sensitivity training for the crew. Having done hiv/aids training in schools, prisons, jail, for city/county employees I can handle myself with grace and ease in the most hostile environments. Not that I want that challenge.

As gay marriage as become legal here I've witnessed lgbt community members point the finger at each other for not doing enough, wearing the wrong clothes, being silent and just generally picking each other apart. What this is is internalized oppression they've felt for years from the dominant community. It is sad for me to see it. I want to tell them our battles aren't with one another. They are still with ignorance and fear in the larger world. Don't denigrate each other because it makes you feel better. Have the courage to stand up in a public place and say, it isn't okay to call other people, or each other, fucking faggots any longer.