On Sundays I occasionally worked a cocktail shift that consisted of me and a bartender handling the entire cocktail section alone from 11:00am until the night shift server came in around 4:00pm. I would work with the night shift server until the rush was over, usually going home around 7:00pm. Most of the time this was a great shift, allowing me to benefit from the brunch crowd, the evening dinner crowd and the mid-afternoon beer drinking ballgame watchers.
One week after a particularly stressful brunch and afternoon rush I was looking forward to getting out a little earlier than usual. My relief was in, business was slow, bar was stocked, side work was finished and tables were up to spec. While finishing up the last of my duties a party of ten came in – a crowd of children, adults and seniors all fresh from a Sunday night church service. For whatever reason they were going to be seated in the closed cocktail section and I was asked to pick them up. I was quite disappointed to have to take a party when I had everything ready to close but was never one to gripe about the opportunity to make more money so I obliged and a few moments later I was introducing myself to ten strangers.
Overall, the people were quite pleasant. Everyone was polite and friendly, no special orders, food came out quickly, etc. Things were about to get weird, though.
While pre-bussing the table, I overheard the middle-aged gentleman at the head of the table – also the loudest mouth at the table – leading a conversation about gay marriage. Personally, I am not gay but I am a strong supporter of gay marriage and the LGBT community but I knew this table was almost finished so my approach was to just not look at anybody while pre-bussing for fear that someone would try to bring me into the conversation.
The man at the end of the table requested that the tab be brought to him so I brought it to him. Usually I would say something along the lines of “Please take your time – no rush,” – a comment that doesn’t require a response but that day was apparently enough to tell the man that I was looking to have a conversation so he piped up.
“What about you, buddy?”
“…What about me?” I said.
“Are you married?” he asked.
“No. Well, not yet, at least. I’m engaged.”
“Well uh…Is it to a woman?” was his next question.
“Of course it’s to a woman!” his wife yelled at him and I agreed in a much more polite manner.
At this point my mind began to race. “Why would he ask such a thing?” I kept asking myself.
“Okay,” he continued. “I just saw the rings and bracelets you had on there and wasn’t quite sure where you, uh…stood. I was going to base my tip off of that.”
At the time I was still in college – probably 21 or 22 years old. I wore a silver band across the ring finger of my right hand and Celtic knot ring on the thumb of the same hand. I also wore two hemp bracelets on the left arm, one on the right. Never had I considered these accessories as surefire indicators of my sexuality or anyone else’s for that matter, so why had he?
In the end the man left me a very generous tip but I couldn’t help but feel that by accepting it I had somehow gone against everything I believed and stood for. Even more, I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for the children in his family that have him as an example and role model. I couldn’t help but think of how friendly and Christ-like this man probably presented himself as no more than two hours previously and I also wondered about how many other servers he had done something similar to.