My 92yo grandmother passed away on Friday morning last week, so I found myself in Indianapolis this week for her funeral. Getting there was a travel ordeal that's better left for another post, and the funeral itself was quite an experience for me (VERY large family, evangelical Baptist service, etc).
I made it through all that and a late night rainy drive to a cheap hotel room at the Indy airport, along with a restless night of sleep on Monday, bringing us to Tuesday morning, where this saga gets going.
More, after the pig-in-an-orange-croissant-blanket:
Rental car returned and boarding pass in hand, I was back at the Indy airport early enough to have time to stop in the pre-security food court for breakfast. As I was sitting by myself eating my chorizo breakfast burrito and replaying the preceding whirlwind 24 hours in my head, I became aware of four guys sitting at the table behind me. I had seen them but not thought twice about them when I grabbed my open table: three white guys and one black guy, all in their 20s or 30s, and in the dark blue work clothes of ground crew or baggage handlers or maintenance...whatever.
The reason I noticed them again mid-burrito is because one of them had started animatedly telling a story about some reality show he'd recently seen. The cast of characters he described included two "party girls", a "married couple" and two "fruit cups." (The latter causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand up).
As his story progressed, the "party girls" were apparently eliminated, the "married couple" were revealed to be black, and the "fruit cups" morphed into "fruit cakes" and back.
I glanced over my shoulder to see who was telling the story: it was the black guy, fully relaxed with his hands clasped behind his head and his legs stretched out and crossed. Not a care in the world as he told his story, and apparently not a bit of concern about using anti-gay terms revolving around "fruit" and dating back to the Anita Bryant era. I mean really. Fruit cup/cake in 2011? Meanwhile, his three white friends/co-workers were equally relaxed and enjoying his story about "fruit cups" being forced to eat flies to stay in the competition.
What happened next surpised all five of us. Rather than just mumbling curses under my breath and going on about my business, I picked up and deposited my trash in a nearby can, returned to my table, slung my backpack over one shoulder and grabbed my duffel bag. I turned and interrupted the story-teller with this:
Me: "Excuse me. Is is fruit CUP? or fruit CAKE?"
Him (startled): "Umm, fruit cu..."
Me (interrupting, again): "FUCK YOU!!!", I yelled in his face.
I turned and looked at the other three guys, all now with their mouths hanging open.
Turning back to the story-teller: "GROW UP."
I slung the other backpack strap across my other shoulder and turned and walked away. After he'd had a chance to collect himself, story-teller yells after me "hey buddy..." but I raised both hands, flipped him off with both middle fingers, and kept walking.
It felt good.
Having had 24 hours to reflect on it, I have mixed feelings.
* It wasn't so long ago that I would not have had the courage to confront a bigot solo, much less in a four-on-one environment far from my home turf comfort zone
* I definitely got his/their attention, and hopefully gave them something to think about.
* If I'd had more time/courage/clarity, I think I might have done more good by turning my chair to face them, and to ask the story-teller how he'd feel if he & I changed places. What if I had been the one telling the story, and in my version, the "fruit cups" were called "gay guys" and the (black) married couple were referred to by the "N word"? I think that might possibly have been even more effective than just hurling a passionate obsenity in his face (no mather how cathartic that was for me at the time).
* Similarly, I could have turned to the three white guys and scolded them as well. I could have shamed them for not speaking up for their gay brother, sister, niece, nephew, friend...whatever. Or for not just speaking up on general principle and saying "fruit cups...seriously? In 2011? Dude, just call them gay guys."
Regardless, I'm glad that I didn't just internalize it and I do hope that each of them gave it some thought and that maybe, just maybe, it'll do at least a little good. Writing this I suppose is just an attempt to improve those odds. Maybe someone will read this and it will bring a little happiness to her/his day. Or, even better, maybe it will embolden someone down the road to join me in standing up and speaking up against bigotry in a scenario that's outside their comfort zone.
Rest in peace, Mamaw. I think I might have inherited at least a little of your feistiness!