I had what might be the weirdest restaurant experience of my life the other night. I wanted to take my daughter and son-in-law out to a place of their choosing in their new city. It was my last night in town, and we wanted to go somewhere special. The evening was special all right, but not in the way we expected.
I was able to look beyond the fact that our table was ready an hour later than our reservation, and I was prepared to overpay for the organic, free-range cuisine that is important to my dinner companions. What I didn’t count on, was the lecture that we received throughout the entire more-than-2-hour meal. I understand that in the type of establishment in which we dined that the clientele is probably a bit more left-leaning than my personal viewpoint, but when did it become social protocol to assume that because someone eats in a self-described “socially responsible” way that they are automatically a liberal?
Our server started out by telling us that he studied at MIT in theology till he learned that there was no God and that he went into community activism and urban planning after his epiphany. He further explained how Mitt Romney is a sadistic rich boy bully and derided our most recent former president in rather explicit terms. This treatment continued throughout the meal, and we further learned his feelings about Heidegger, Socrates, Plato and President Obama. We learned how many hundreds of thousand dollars this man accrued in student loan debt, and we learned about the unfortunate end of his marriage. We know how he feels about Bill and Hillary Clinton, and we know how he feels about Wall Street. We know entirely too much about him, and that he cared nothing about us.
What I am the most confused about is my reaction or lack there of. I so wanted to ask him when he told us that he lost God, if he ever found Him again. And I wanted to say that I was offended by his assumption that we shared his feelings about atheism and ultra left-wing politics. But I kept quiet, because I didn’t want to make a scene. And I didn’t get up and get another staff member to get this creep out of our faces, because I was trying to be polite. And I paid for the privilege of being insulted and offended, because it was more important to not embarrass my dinner guests.
And I was so ticked off at myself! I finally said something to the manager on the way out of the restaurant when I got up and left the room and abandoned my son-in-law who was being held hostage by the rude behavior of our server. I never raised my voice. I never exaggerated how we were treated. I simply related our tale to this man’s boss. What hurt me the most was that in the process of trying to stand up for myself, I embarrassed my daughter and her husband.
When did it become impolite to tell rude people that they are being rude? When did it become politically incorrect to talk about God and yet be okay to admit to perfect strangers to being a unbeliever? When did it become more important how our food is treated than how we are?
Being the most conservative member of the little scene that played out the other night, I would most likely be deemed the least open-minded. I don’t get it. I’m open to listening to others’ ideas discussed in a civil dialogue. I’m open to art and literature and the unsanitized study of history. I’m open to the idea of eating locally and seasonally and healthfully. But, I’m also open to the beauty of life all around me and the belief of life before birth and after death and that this did not all happen by accident. I’m open to listening to viewpoints that differ from my own, and I expect others to do the same.
The man spouting his opinions the other night had every right to his thoughts. Where he went over the line was in inflicting them on others in a professional capacity and in assuming, or not caring whether or not those on the receiving end of his evening long tirade agreed with him or were offended.
I was offended. I’m still offended. I’m offended at how we were treated, and I’m offended that I’m the one considered to be close-minded. I’m offended that as a traditionalist, I’m considered less intelligent, less current and less open to other ideas. I kept quiet the other night, and I allowed our evening to be ruined by an overbearing boor, but mark my words, I’m not going to do that again.