Totally Misread That Situation

, , , , | Right | March 27, 2018

(I’m working in a quick-service cafe with different stations for sandwiches, soups, and salads where the customers order off menu placards overhead. Two customers, a middle-aged woman and an older man, are at the front of the line.)

Older Man: *squinting and pointing vaguely at signboards where dozens of items are listed* “What does that say?”

Me: *thinking he has poor eyesight* “Oh, we have some hand menus here if you have trouble making out the signs.”

Older Man: “Can’t you just read them to me?”

Me: *looking at the crowd of customers behind him* “Well, there are other people waiting to be served. I’ll be happy to get back to you after you’ve looked over the menu and decided what—”

Woman: *interrupting loudly and angrily* “He’s illiterate!

Me: “Uh… I’m sorry. I didn’t realize–“

Woman: “You should be ashamed of yourself, making fun of his disability!”

Me: “I wasn’t making fun of him. I didn’t realize he couldn’t read. I just offered a menu because I thought perhaps his eyesight was poor.”

Woman: “Well, you shouldn’t make assumptions! You’re DISCRIMINATING AND REFUSING TO ACCOMMODATE HIS DISABILITY!”

(At this point everyone in the line is staring, and the older man looks mortified.)

Woman: “See? This is why I have to go with him everywhere. Can’t you see you’re embarrassing him? YOU’RE SO INSENSITIVE!”

Me: “Ma’am, all I did was offer him a menu, which you were capable of helping him with discreetly, instead of making a scene and announcing that he can’t read. Now, please, step out of line so I can help these people who are ready to order, and return when you’ve made a decision.”

Woman: “No. We don’t want to be served by a bigot. We’ll get our lunch from a different station.” *to the man* “You’re going to have the soup. You can just point at what you want over there.”

(She shoots me a death glare and walks away with her nose in the air. There is a long silence and the man stands there for a moment with his gaze averted to the floor before following.)

Next Customer: “Whoa, that was awkward.”

(Later, my manager approaches me.)

Manager: “We got a complaint about you today. Were there any incidents?”

Me: “Yeah, I think I know who you mean. Some lady was yelling at me earlier because I offered her friend a menu when he couldn’t read. That was pretty much it.”

Manager: “Wow. She told us you were making fun of him, and also said that you refused to serve ‘an illiterate moron.’”

Me: “What?! No, I never said that! I just asked them to let me serve other customers while they made up their minds.”

Manager: “Yeah, that really didn’t sound like something you would say, but the guy looked so upset I thought I’d check.”

(We never saw them in our establishment again, but I hope that poor guy doesn’t have to go through that everywhere.)

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