Our friend Trent Preszler shared this story with us about an experience he had this week at Myers Steakhouse & Inn in Salamanca, NY which demonstrates the difference allies, businesses, and humans can make in each other's lives – and how important it is to stand up for one another.
Profound life changing experience tonight driving through western NYS. Pulled off interstate for dinner at locally owned historic steakhouse founded in 1901. I sat at the bar, perusing the menu, lots of deer taxidermy around. TV has ESPN showing the Michael Sam documentary.
Group of 10 drunk middle-aged straight married men in golf polos and (pleated!) khakis are sitting at the bar. They see Michael Sam on ESPN and start shouting and pointing at the TV: "YAH LOOK AT THAT FUCKING FAGGOT CRY! HE'S SUCH A FAGGOT, WATCH THAT PUSSY C-CK SUCKER CRY WHEN HE STARTS PLAYING FOOTBALL BRO! HE'S CRYING BECAUSE HE'S A F–KING C-CK SUCKING FAGGOT." They laugh among themselves HAHAHA and slap high fives while I sat five feet away.
This is the fear and horror that gay people live with every day of their lives. An inky, dark, sick feeling sat in my stomach. I stood up and left before ordering. They were all drunk and I worried for my safety.
Getting in my car in the parking lot, suddenly three people appeared at my car window. I locked my door, fearing the worst.
It was the Chef, maintenance man, and waitress. They asked me to roll down my window, so I did. They said, "please don't leave, we are so sorry those guys said those horrible things, that's not right, that's not who WE are, we work here and we welcome all people and we want to cook you dinner. Please don't leave. We told those guys their behavior was unacceptable and asked them to go. We don't want their business if it means we have to allow them to disrespect people. They're ignorant."
The Chef is an Iraq war veteran (born in Puerto Rico) who said he can't stand by and watch bigotry happen in front of him; it's not in line with his principles and what he fought for. The waitress is a nursing student at a local community college. The maintenance man is a honorable local man who's never been to NYC and works his ass off washing dishes and cleaning hotel rooms so he can buy his fiancé a diamond ring. All three of them gave me a hug and sat down at the table with me at the end of their shifts. We talked and drank Merlot. They showed me infinitely more love and compassion than the bigoted white middle aged wealthy assholes who cloak their bigotry behind a veneer of Sergio Tacchini golf polos and Rolexes.
Astonished, I ate my dinner with a tear in my eye and hope for our future. Thank you to these wonderful human beings in Salamanca, New York.