We only had to ban one person from the restaurant during our three-year run. This seems pretty good to me, considering I come from a town where they are continuously banning drunkards and teen hooligans from their various stores and eateries.
Greg wasn’t a terrible person when we first met him. He was a large round man who had a severe face and said what was on his mind. I met Greg in the middle of a busy lunch rush. I was sweating and getting a little angsty at the prospect of having to serve another 50 people before the day would be through when a man in an incongruously baggy shirt and shorts came and stood directly beside me at the register.
“Oh. Hello,” I said, not understanding why this person was so close to me.
“You must be Mrs. Brown. Good work, James.” He shouted to my husband, who was making sandwiches on the other side of the line.
And because I am pretty much the whitest lady ever, the blush that filled my cheeks was deep and seemingly everlasting.
“You’re especially cute when you blush like that,” Greg laughed. He then threw a twenty at me and said he’d have a smoked beef panini.
Later, Jamie explained that Greg was our newest fan and had been visiting the shop every evening for the past week. He was smitten with our large sandwiches and us, apparently. Jamie was smitten with him because of all the extra revenue he was bringing to the business.
Greg became a regular fixture over the following months. He would come in, make inappropriate comments toward me, laugh it off and order him and his coworkers lunch.
Now, for most of my life, I have flown my feminist flag loud and proud. I’ve stood on a chair and yelled, “I am a feminist!” As Caitlyn Moran has so aptly advised in How to be a Woman. I’ve read The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer, had mixed thoughts about it, and began to form my own ideas on feminism and equality by gathering up as much quantifiable information as I could and sorting that shit for myself. In the end, I try to stand tall beside my fellow feminists.
However, I had this misogynistic dude hanging around the shop, and although he was funny and was spending a good fortune on our food, he made me uncomfortable. He was so brash and in the face of everything. Greg went out of his way to make others feel small. He enjoyed watching the awkward facial expressions of people when he’d speak inappropriate comments to them.
He made me nervous. I mentioned this to Jamie, who only had dollar signs in his mind. My husband tried to sympathize with me but, in the end, told me that sometimes we would just have to deal with customers like that. It was the name of the customer service game.
I liked seeing the extra daily income as well, so I couldn’t really press the point. Making money and getting our business off the ground was the most important thing at that time, we figured, so I sucked up the weird feelings I got from Greg and carried on serving him daily.
A few weeks before everything went down, I complained to Greg as I made him a sandwich that our dryer had kicked the bucket. I had to hang dry all of our clothes, and that can get pretty exhausting and time-consuming for a family of four.
Greg said, “Well, why didn’t you say? You know I work for an appliance company. If you give us your old ones, I can hook you up with a refurbished washer and dryer, no charge.”
“What, are you serious?” I asked excitedly.
“Yeah, sure, it’s no problem.”
So that is precisely what we did, and just like that, I had a brand new front loading washer and dryer.
I am not above telling you that I liked Greg more after that.
Perhaps that makes me shallow or shitty. I don’t know. Or, maybe that makes me human. What I do know is that my laundry had never been cleaner, and for a few weeks, Greg was my favourite person in the world.
But then Pride Days happened.
I don’t know about your city, but here in Lethbridge, Pride week is awesome. There are so many fantastic opportunities to learn about 2SLGBTQ+ and current events. Plus, everything is rainbow clad.
At the shop, we were huge supporters of Pride. We crafted rainbow baked goods for the week and would donate 100% of the proceeds from those goodies to the Pride organization. We also were pretty vocal on our social media channels that there would be no tolerance for hate speech in our establishment.
Unfortunately, this is something that comes hand in hand with Pride week in our small southern Albertan community. Those opposing the whole shebang.
We’d hear a lot of things like, “I don’t care what they do in the privacy of their own home, but why do they need a parade for it? Where’s my straight pride parade?” As if being gay, trans, queer was a private shame one should keep to themselves. The thing about privilege is that you can smell it dripping off of accusatory statements like these.
When any hate speech like that would arise, I’d quickly shut it down by happily saying, “Oh no, we aren’t about that around these parts. We love and support everyone!” I’d say this in such a bubbly outgoing way that it would basically force the speaker to shut up, or if the mood struck him, leave.
I had said this to Greg on several occasions leading up to Pride week. He knew what mine and Jamie’s stance was — the right stance. People can love whomever the fuck they want, and it’s none of your damn business.
I was under the impression that Greg heard us loud and clear on this topic. I honestly did not think that someone could act as brazenly as what he did next.
We were busy at the shop.
The line was growing, and each person who walked in the door was just a little dollar sign in my brain. Then I saw Greg.
“Hey, did you hear about those stupid crosswalks getting vandalized?” He was talking about the rainbow crosswalks that the Pride committee had painted a few days before.
“Yeah, what kind of an idiot would do such a thing?” I said, trying to avoid his opinion, although, in my heart, I knew it was coming.
“Well, I wasn’t the one who tarred it. Would have if I had the tar, though. I did a few burnouts on the thing.”
And that’s when rational thinking left me, and the world around me slowed to a snail’s crawl.
The chatter of the customers quieted. In the background, Jamie’s manic voice telling me to “just drop it” was only a faint whisper. Truthfully, it was the farthest thing from my mind. My hands balled into fists, and I said, “Get the fuck out of my restaurant.”
“Excuse me?” Said Greg.
“Get out, man. We don’t serve bigots here. Get out.”
“You can’t kick me out. I just gave you a free washer and dryer,” Greg said.
“To hell, I can’t. You want your washer and dryer back?” I threw my house keys at him (a risky move, because in all honesty, I really didn’t want him in my home after all this).
Okay, okay, none of this was very professional, especially as a business owner, I am aware of this. All I could see was red. I thought of my friends who have been marginalized because of something as simple as their sexuality. I thought of this man standing before me, literally telling me that he didn’t believe in the rights of others.
“You going to let her do that, man?” Greg yelled to Jamie as if Jamie could somehow control anything I was doing at the moment.
“She’s the boss,” is what my beautiful husband yelled back.
I plopped Greg’s food on the counter in front of him and told him he wasn’t welcome back if he was going to bring this kind of bullshit into our restaurant. He didn’t take me up on my offer to remove the new washer and dryer from our house.
I, perhaps, should have felt guilty about that, but I didn’t.
Somewhere along the lines, I realized that when people gift you something, you don’t have to feel beholden to them, especially when their values do not align with yours.
Our purpose was to continue to run an inclusive, loving business that made every patron feel welcome and safe. Greg, although financially good for the business wasn’t conducive to our core values. So, Greg had to go.
And we never saw Greg again.
Previously published on medium
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