I like talking to people. I like hearing their stories and everyone has a story.
There is a restaurant in my community, a soul food place as it is called that I like to eat at. It’s not close to my office but when I am in the area I stop by for fried chicken, collards, black-eyed peas, fried okra, and cornbread. Yes it good but I can’t afford to eat there often, not money, waistband.
This restaurant has been around for a while. It is owned by a black family whose matriarch opened the doors 30+ years ago and is now run by her son. It attracts a diverse clientele, black, white, rich, poor, powerful, and the common.
There is a community table that I sit at if I come alone. Over the years I have met some interesting people and have had some even more interesting and sometimes surprising conversations. Tuesday was one of those surprising conversations.
It was early, 11:30 but I rationalized, it wasn’t a hard sale, that I was close, haven’t eaten there in a while and had earned all of the aforementioned delicacies plus a bowl of banana pudding. The community table was empty save for one old white man wearing a Korean War veterans baseball cap.
I sat across from Jeff and introduced myself. After serving in Korea he returned to his job in the textile mill his family had worked in for two generations. I can’t remember if he said he was 85 or 86 but the mill closed when he was in his mid-fifties and then he worked for the school district for 15 years as a custodian.
Jeff asked what I did for a living and I told him that I worked for a non-profit in the affordable housing sector. Jeff looked at me with a sour look on his face and said, “So you take my money to pay other people’s rent.” I wasn’t sure how to respond so I tried a soft approach, “We help people that would be homeless live in a home.” “So welfare”, was his reply, “using my money?”. All I could say was, “Jeff, I guess that is one short-sighted way of looking at it.”
At this point in the conversation I was just going to focus on my wonderful food eyeballing the banana pudding when Jeff said, “I bet you voted for Crooked Hillary.” I grinned and said “Jeff I don’t even have to ask who you voted for so let me ask you, why would you vote for that immoral piece of shit” Jeff bowed-up, well bowed-up as much as an 80+ year old can and said “That’s the President of the United Stated you are talking about.” I asked what that piece of shit had ever done for him and he went through the Trump list, economy, keeping “Mexican’s” (his word) out, trade, lowering taxes, Yada, Yada, Yada.
At this point Jeff was done eating and I had slid my banana pudding in front of me. I buried my spoon into the bowl and hoped Jeff would just move-on so I could enjoy this small pleasure alone. Instead he sat and stared at me like he was waiting for an apology so I put my spoon down and said, “Jeff, first I want to thank-you for your service to our country, something ‘your’ President was able to avoid because his Daddy had money. Second, I want you to tell me what your President has done to make your life better. Do you have more money? Do you pay less taxes? Have all of your stocks doubled in value? Were you worried about the ‘Mexicans’ taking over the country? Are your tired of buying cheap shit at Walmart made in China? Tell me Jeff, other than Trump being white, what has the piece of shit really done for you?”
I got to enjoy my banana pudding in peace after-all.