I had a rare treat Monday — lunch at the Oregon Diner with the man who had been my dentist for 40 years.
While we were both working, we never had time for a leisurely lunch, but we had lots of laughs with me in the chair. His name is Steve, but I called him Thumbs. He was a great friend, a great audience for my high jinx, and a great dentist. It’s not many people who enjoy visits to the dentist. I did, it was like visiting a friend, and he treated his staff like family.
Neither of us put on airs, so eating at a diner suits us fine.
We walked in, and right up to the sign that asks you to wait to be seated. We stood along a booth occupied by two African-Americans who seemed to be in their 30s. I rested my arm on the top of the backrest of the booth, my arm about a foot away from the young ladies’ head.
The diner was maybe half full, but the wait was usually long. Steve and I chatted quietly.
After about five minutes, the gentleman in the booth called over the waitress, asking to move to another table in an area that wasn’t so crowded, or busy. I didn’t hear exactly what he said.
The waitress said sure and moved them to a table near the rear of the diner.
Steve looked at me, quizzically. “Was that because of us?” I asked him.
We both smiled, because we did not know the motive, and could not attribute it to race.
What if the races had been reversed — and a white couple asked to be moved because they were seated near a couple of Blacks?
We spent about three seconds thinking about that, and a hostess arrived to take us to our booth.
Can you guess the punch line?
She led us to a booth right next to the booth occupied by the African-American couple.
We hit the booth with huge smiles on our faces, laughing silently. We could read each other’s minds. If they had been trying to escape us, they were screwed by karma. My back was to the couple, so I couldn’t see their faces.
They did not ask to be moved again.
So, was their move racial?
I don’t know. As a white person, I don’t get permission to make assumptions about racism.
And neither should anyone else.
When it is real racism — you know it.