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Posted by rocky at 08:01AM, Tuesday, December 04th, 2001

We Make Great Waiters

Eavesdropping on a surprising conversation between some crusty old men

Gustav and I are sitting in Dunkin Donuts, waiting for our car to be fixed nearby, drinking coffee and sharing a donut. We're talking about our future, and during lulls in our conversation I'm listening to the old men sitting near us.

They're retired, from something blue collar. Maybe from the car industry -- they're talking about car factories, labor and strikes. Conversation turns to the city, and one of them tells the others he only goes downtown to go to the airport. Then they're talking about the mayor, and I tune out as Gustav and I start talking again.

"... hiring gays," and a laugh grabs my attention, bringing me back into their conversation. I brace myself for the usual tirades. One of the men had been unusually rude to one of the men behind the counter while I was ordering. The guy serving the coffee was darker, and looked Central or South American. "Where are you from? Are you from America?" the old man had asked. "I want another plate. A plate. That's a tray. Plate. No, a bigger plate."

The guy behind the counter had responded, in slightly accented but otherwise good English, "Look, these are the plates. There's only one size. If you want something bigger, I can give you one of these. That's it."

So I'm shocked when the laughter is followed by, "yeah, and they make great waiters." I look up and see a round of nods. Serious, no smiles or winks. These guys don't look they engage in a lot of ironic repartee, I think to myself. The old man from the counter is nodding a little less vigorously than the others.

The third guy nods.

"Great waiters," he says.

The first guy continues. "They're professional. Hard-working, courteous people. And kind. Very kind. Great waiters. I've known a lot of them who have been great waiters. Not like these 'howyadoin hon' women you get."

He mimes a bad (presumably straight) waitress as he says this last part.

The guy from the counter continues to nod, and the third guy chimes in, "Hey, it's their choice," and laughs.

They all nod, and laugh, and they're on to discussing hockey.

I don't know what you can make of a trio of old guys sitting in a Dunkin Donuts, but if that's a bellweather of how gays and lesbians are viewed in this country, I think it's a good one. Maybe one of those guys isn't going to go out and support gay marriage or equal rights on the job. But maybe it means there is room to appeal to people like him -- to say that people who are industrious, courteous and kind, in spite of whatever else they have working against them, are entitled to the same rights and protections he is.

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