Monday, October 22, 2012

A Noticeable Absence of Cold Stares...

I am a self proclaimed anti-social human being on Monday’s.  Sundays are typically 15 hour people intensive days for me. By the time Monday morning around, I am feeling somewhat reclusive.  Consequently I enjoy playing a round of golf by myself on Monday after enjoying a Taco Villa burrito in a similar state of solitude. But today was destined to be different.

A couple in front of me on the front 9 holes at the golf course asked me to join them after we made the turn and prepared to attack the back 9.  It was late in the afternoon, so my social awareness was starting to return to a large degree. Both of them are excellent golfers. (No ladies tees for her either. She teed off with the men today!)  I enjoyed their company immensely.  However as we started getting in the groove of the back 9 holes, my mind drifted back to 1980…

I was a freshman at Texas Tech 32 years ago.  I went to work not long before school started that year at an old fashioned Texaco full service station. We hand washed and waxed cars everyday in addition to actually pumping people’s gas, checking their oil and cleaning their windshields. It was a great job for that period in my life.  I worked with a man a few years my senior who actually managed the station for the owner.  Johnny provided non-stop entertainment.  He was skilled mechanically and a lot of fun to banter with all through the day. As I look back on the four years that I worked with him, one recurring event stands out.

When we eat together at Furr’s Cafeteria, I frequently received cold stares from elderly patrons dining in the long established Lubbock restaurant. I must confess that I thoroughly enjoyed staring back at them.  Occasionally older adults that knew my parents would avoid speaking to me in there when I was with Johnny.  I was only 18 years old, but I was not a complete imbecile. They did not like seeing a white college student having lunch with a black man who was obviously older than me. It steamed me then and it continues to anger me today. What a shame they could not eat with Johnny. It was their loss.  I have such great memories of our lunches together.  We talked about everything imaginable. I was a kid with decent book sense and he was a man with good life sense.

I thought about Johnny this afternoon on the golf course, because the folks I played golf with were a mixed race couple. I had so much fun with them.  And I learned a few things about golf from him too. He is a scratch golfer who chipped in three balls from off the green today.  Apparently he taught his wife to play golf without having a marital meltdown.

As we parted ways, I thought about the small minded racists who stared at me in Furr’s Cafeteria 32 years ago.  They are most likely gone from this world by now. And I also thought to myself how I would react it one of my boys wanted to see or marry a woman of a different race.  I could not help but smile to myself. If she can put up with one of them, more power to her!  I am interested in the boys meeting someone of good character.  And last time I checked people of good character come in all colors and from multiple nationalities. The boys can bring girls from all races home.  There will be a noticeable absence of cold stares. S

1 comment:

Ruben said...

Thank you for these wonderful words, John. 2012 is a long time from 1980, and even though things are better, we still have a long way to go. I say that as a Latino man married to a beautiful African-American woman. We still get those stares on occasion, even in a place like Austin. But with each passing generation, I pray that we will one day not divide ourselves by “race,” instead understanding that we are all one human race. As one of my favorite poets, Dr. Maya Angelou, says: “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”