I sat around all day, goofing off here and there, doing absolutely nothing, and yet, seemingly quite buried in the process of doing nothing. I decided, finally, that I was hungry, so I took a drive to get something to eat. There’s this place I have driven past several times previously, but never had it occurred to me to stop in there. The place seems to be a dive; just a hole in the wall – appropriately named: “BEST DAMM BURGERS IN TOWN.” This seemed as good a time as any to try something different, hopefully, refreshing!
Usually, a cursory look at the cars parked in the lot indicates to me the composition of the crowd inside an unfamiliar joint. Not so this time. I pull into the front parking lot of the building. The lot is small, jam-packed with 4x4’s, and mostly, American made cars. The 4X4’s don’t carry the usual telltale signs of mud-racing dirt which, I interpret as constructive notice of Hillbillies’ watering hole. I see a small sign in the window that informs patrons of “additional parking in the rear.” Hmmm, interesting way to tell folks where to park if they can’t find parking at the front end – quite a sense of humor!
Therefore, I pull out back and after a bit of searching, I manage to find a suitable spot to park. I make the short trip to the front door; open the doors to this darkly lit diner/bar. The conversation indoors is loud, and one can barely hear the servers taking orders. I make a beeline to the only vacant stool I see and plop down on it, thankful to take the load off. I blink several times to get my eyes accustomed to the dimly lit room, a condition aggravated by the roar of noise and smoke. It’s amazing how one temporarily impaired sense has an effect on all the other senses. Not only could I not see clearly, I could barely feel my buttocks make contact with the stool, not to mention the taste of cigarette smoke, (clearly unmistakable on my palate) yet, quite indistinguishable in the air by my nostrils…all that was left was an inviting aroma of home-cooked food!
“I said would you like a drink sir?” asked the server. Apparently, she’d asked this question more than once. “Oh, sorry.” “May I have a Heineken please?” “We don’t carry that here sir.” She said. “Well, what do you carry then?” I asked -- blinking several times to clear my vision. “These are all we have for domestic brands,” as she swept her hand over the labels of the beers on tap. “Molson is the only import beer we carry.” I settled on a Budweiser. “Sure thing honey.” She said, as she took my order. “Would you like to see a menu too?”
“Please.” I said.
The service was good. The beer was on my table faster than it would have seemed possible in such a slow and dimly lit environment. I whipped out a debit card and said, “I’ll like to open a tab please.” She looked at the card, looked at me, then at the beer. In a trice, the beer was gone from the table. She looked at the card again and said, “sorry sir, but we don’t take that – only cash.” “We have a sign sir.” She stated further, as she pointed at a small paper plastered on the side of the cash register. “I…I didn’t see that”…I stuttered. She just smirked knowingly. I dug in my pockets for cash and could only find a couple of dollars and some cents. I asked what the beer cost. “That’ll be $1.50.” “Wow” I murmured to myself. I gave her the money and told her to hold my seat; “I’ll be right back.” I said over my shoulder as I made for the door.
A short drive away, I located a Shell gas station which had an ATM. I got some money and made it back to the joint. This time around, I knew what to expect and the place seemed less arresting. I noticed I had fresh company too. I took a good, long hard look at my surroundings. The crowd was mostly white – without question, highly street savvy. There were some blue-collar types who had obviously made it straight there from the job because they sat in their Cintas issued uniforms with sewn-on nametags. I glanced over to my left and said a feeble “hi” to the blonde lady next to me and her friends. “Sup?” Replied the one closest to me. I began, “aww, not much….just saw this place on my drive and decided….”
She didn’t seem too interested…she plunged back into a conversation with her friends, on which she seemed quite passionate. I took a sip on my beer and let my eyes just wander about the room. I had just ordered a burger, which was purportedly, “adorned” with the hottest sauce ever known to humankind. I knew I could handle heat -- and I haven’t seen any heat in a Whitman’s joint that I couldn’t handle yet. Most of these places usually hand me Tabasco sauce with a caution to use it sparingly!!!! Tsk!! I usually just smile to myself, only to drench the plate before me in sauce.
As I gazed around the room, the word “nigger” caught my attention. I looked around to see if more of us had arrived but didn’t see any difference in the composition of the crowd. Once again, I heard: “gaaal booo…that’s ma jam…this nigger rocks!!!!” The remark came from the girls sitting to my left, as they were doing a slight bounce in their seats. Each had an arm cogged up in the air – (like an Indian cobra ready to strike) while bouncing back and forth in unison and singing along with what, apparently, one of them had requested on the Jukebox. It was then that my attention was drawn to the music. “Magic Stick” by Li’l Kim and 50 Cent, was blaring out the sound speakers. Whereas most of the people in the diner/bar couldn’t careless about what was playing, there were a few pockets here and there of folks in the joint who seemed to be bopping their heads to the music.
Meanwhile, the girls next to where I sat were back, deeply into their conversation. I decided then to listen in. They seemed quite interesting all of a sudden. Their conversation, as I paid attention, was liberally interspersed with the word – nigger – used without restraint, and nary a hint of discomfort.
“So we all at Jillian’s just chilling right, …nigga’s just mixing and having a good time. Then this bitch comes stepping up to ma nigga right….”
“Whoa,” I said to myself, hmmm, that explains it. So this white girl’s dating a black guy and has acquired some hip-hop tastes.
“This bitch go’n be all up on ma nigga like ’m invisible wonder woman or some’n” “so I step up to this bitch and let her have it. I tell her to never ever disrespect me like that again and be all up on ma man or there’s go’n be hell to pay.” “She go’n look at me talkabout: ‘he said he aint wich you’…hand, all up in ma face”
“So I snatch the bitch -- oooooo gal…”
Just as the conversation was getting quite good, this white dude walks up to the girls. He sports an Allen Iverson jersey, a ball cap turned sideways, sagging pants and a couple of neck bracelets. I hear him say “whaddup…whaddup” to all the girls at the table. He looks over at the girl sitting next to me, then over at me, and makes a slick and brief upward motion of the head; simultaneously, he says: “whatsup bruh?” I make the same motion with my head (beer glued to my lips) without a remark. He walks over with a swagger, one hand in his back pocket – he stands over the girl next to me. He looks her over tenderly, with a distinct and piercing purpose – full of naughty attitude -- then, blows her a kiss. She looks up lovingly at him and says “whatsup ma nigga?” He says to her, “how’s ma shorty t’nite?” She coos an answer. They embrace, and then they kiss!
So, I dive back into my supremely spiced burger and I am sweating bullets (or is it, sweating like a slave?) with every bite…! I murmur to myself, “nigger” was once considered fighting words whenever said in the presence of a Negro by the “other” race. Now it’s considered cool points. Wow, what a race to have turned the tables!!!