Adverse assumptions


“Hey, I didn’t want to assume anything,” was the boisterous waiter’s only response. No matter how many time we attempted to point out his transgression, he would just deflect us with jazz hands and say, “Like I said, I didn’t want to assume anything.”

The Good Earth, a popular restaurant for two couples to meet and enjoy a healthy lunch. My husband and I shared an appetizer as well as sampled each other’s entree. Our friends, Bart and Linda, similarly shared their food with each other. Couples do that.

The four of us engaged in stimulating conversations on an array of topics. Yet, it seemed that our muscular, college-age waiter, who maintained a constant vigil over our table, was oblivious to this. While I appreciate having my water glass filled, when he stretched across the table, he seemed to be deliberately encroaching in our space.

Passing on dessert, we requested the check. Most servers will either bring out one check for the table, or will ask if the bill should be divided. Our waiter, however, decided to be more creative. He gave us three checks; one for Bart and Linda, one for Mike and one for me. How could he not have noticed we too were coupled? The dropped jaws and confused expressions on all of our faces must have been noticeable, because the waiter tried to defend his actions by repeating the same statement again and again. As each of us tried to point out his error, he just threw up his arms and said, “Hey, I just didn’t want to assume.”

When he served our table, he didn’t see two couples. He saw one couple and two other people who were something other than a couple. For some reason, he just couldn’t believe that Mike, my husband, and I could be together. I guess when he looked at Bart, Linda, Mike and me, all he could see was white, white, white and black. Or maybe it goes a little deeper. Perhaps, as a white man himself, our waiter just couldn’t fathom someone who looked like him being with a black woman.

As far-fetched as it sounds, it is the only thing that makes sense to me. Even though the Twin Cities has a high percentage of interracial couples, they are mostly black men with white women. The number of white men/black women couple, while climbing, is still significantly lower. Why is this? The most common theory is that white men are destined to become the corporate leaders, and while they may sow their wild oats with women of other races, they are expected to settle down and marry a white woman, especially one of high standing. Therefore, seeing a thirty year older version of himself defying social norms may have played havoc with his own identity and status.

Of course, my theory could be completely wrong. The waiter may have a valid reason for treating us differently. However, he seemed incapable of articulating anything other than, “I didn’t want to assume.” But here’s the thing…he did assume. He assumed Bart and Linda were a couple and Mike and I were not.

As the saying goes, when you assume you make an ass out of u and me.

Wanting to end the awkwardness we all felt, Mike tallied up both checks and paid. However, the whole affair left us all with a bad aftertaste. Then, looking at the waiter Bart said what we all were thinking. “You could have just asked.”