I’m Assuming You Don’t Know

When walking into Cracker Barrel last night for dinner, I assumed my favorite lemon-pepper trout dinner would be waiting for me on the menu. This delicious two piece fish entree with sides of macaroni and cheese, corn, and a salad has been a Sunday night regular for my tired, worn, weekend grill-sloshed body’s hungry belly. Sam the Man, our favorite waiter, is usually there to smilingly serve my iced tea with an extra glass of ice and knows enough to not even ask for my order. He knows what I want … on any normal night.

Sunday, June 14th … last night. No assumptions could be made. Texas Roadhouse, on a whim and suggestion from a good friend, was well into a line upon arrival and I was too hungry to wait. Next door, Chili’s parking lot looked the same as if there was a sudden run to the border. Why did my wife and I not first head to Cracker Barrel? I assumed a 7 pm dinner time on a Sunday would be less likely loaded than any other time of the week – especially during this covid-19 social tightness noosed around restaurants these fine days .

If not for the urging from a good foodie-vendor friend all weekend, and the seasoned, drippy pork chop painted picture he drew, I wouldn’t have steered my beat up Honda into Texas Roadhouse’s socially distanced, beef-ribbed parking lot. Hooking the trout first inside Cracker Barrel with Sam and a cold iced tea … sitting down after 6 long days of work … and I would’ve avoided any extra miles on my already worn nerves.

We finally entered that most familiar store after passing the rocking chairs and extra large checker boards. Signs and notices suggest mask wearing, however, some do not oblige. Workers? Yes. Guests who scrum about the gifts shop? Some – who most likely assume they are virus free, do not wear them. A muted, vocal tone from a very nice familiar host immediately directs us to a table triangulated and distanced 6-feet from any other in the large echoed room. Scratchy wooden chairs across a tiled floor accompany, now, condiment-less blank tables with no golf-tee games happily waiting twenty minute pastimes between ordering and meal arrivals.

The old pictures on the wall remain still, but have an eerie new meaning. Folks in hazy black and white pose staring across our table last night gave me the same pause they, themselves, have stood in two-dimensional time. They knew nothing of the cell phone I tapped text messages into while I stared disappointingly at a limited menu, but seemed to see into the starkness of a barely full dining room. Technology escaped their purview. Life did not.

They must have noticed my disbelief in realizing trout, apparently, jumped off the menu. An apparent covid-casualty of the worst, unimaginable kind. I assumed, after driving happily away from Texas Roadhouse, Cracker Barrel would save my stomach soul. Sam tried to calm my weary worries … and he did … sort of. I settled in on the haddock after dismissing the catfish, chicken, meatloaf, roast beef, sampler, and various other quite limited choices.

As a non-menu grabber for years, it was odd scanning over other choices. I never do. Always the same Sunday fare. Yes, a tad OCD … welcome to that world, but after working in the sun all weekend, a Sunday night with Sam, trout, iced tea (and an extra glass of ice) is an assumed treat.

Assumed until it can’t be anymore. I had to pause. My normal wasn’t acceptable, except I can accept assumptions … sometimes. Let me explain:

This is where we are in America. A few mornings ago, a Wendy’s burned because, once again, a young man was tragically killed unnecessarily. The night before, I was watching coverage of that police shooting in Atlanta – as it happened only hours before – and, sadly, I had to assume “something” of a violent or destructive nature would happen in reaction … and it did. An innocent building was torched in protest.

I am not condoning the reaction. It wasn’t a response, but a visceral, gut-punch reaction from a community who assumes the gunning down of a 27 year old man who, yes, physically struggled with the police, was so every-day anymore. You know what? …the assumption isn’t wrong. This young man was fleeing and shot in the back – twice. It’s a story that cannot be ignored anymore by saying, “Assuming makes an ASS-out of U and ME’. That American story is gone. It makes an ass out of the police who shot the man. Period.

Yes, an argument can be made for the gang minority violence in Chicago … along with the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m zeroing in on the violence against black men perpetrated by some law enforcement who seem to have no problem squeezing their trigger brain and, yes, murdering with no just cause … apparently … allegedly, may I say before being accused of “guilty before innocence”. Notice the word “some” used above – recognizing the honest, moral among them as well.

The list is filling up and is too full, now, for me to ignore. I can’t assume the American system of law enforcement is right, just, and equal anymore in the disbursement of justice at the point of contact in a park, drive-thru, street sidewalk, or city corner. I can fairly assume it is for me as it applies, however, to me a white male living in a fairly conservative north-eastern state surrounded by mostly Republican, Christian people. Experiences for others in more diverse, highly concentrated bigger cities would be significantly different.

I always assumed it was the same across the country. OUR country. I was wrong. My life was isolated from the reality of racism. It isn’t any more complicated than that. Not just racism. Bigotry against those who choose same sex relationships, trans lifestyles and similar alternative choices, atheist or non-traditional worship meditations, are on my awareness spectrum. James Baldwin makes sense more to me than ever, shades of black experience are being lifted – shining light into my previously shaded white world.

Assumptions of what was can be no more. Generations of thinking need to be changed. I, myself, can’t lift mountains of new information to new heights, nor can I speak those who can’t hear. What I can do is change my assumptions, little by little, and take a stand on new ground – while talking to those who will listen.

Trout at Cracker Barrel is one small sacrifice. I assumed it was to be … until it wasn’t. I’ll live without it for now. There are men and women not alive today because bad, horrible, possibly – and assumed – racists police decided to use excessive force and exterminate others’ lives … over and over again. Yes, there I WILL use “assumed” … because the shoe fits. A shoe that does not deserve to stand on ground I stand.

Today, I am responding to all this. Tomorrow, and in days to come, there will be more. Reform, change, and reactions in time to avoid another tragedy? Doubtful. But then, I’m assuming the outcome.

Let’s hope I’m wrong.









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s