Throwing stones in glass coffee shops
Red Card Roberts
Park Record columnist
A few days ago I met a friend for coffee in a very small and very packed little place. She’s one of those people who always has fascinating life updates, the kind that can rarely be covered in the time it takes to finish a latte. It’s not uncommon for us to go a couple of weeks without speaking, and the next time I hear from her she’s on her way to India, or engaged, or she’s going back to school to learn the ancient art of Persian rug making. She darts from one relationship/hobby/job/continent to the next, with little warning and even less hesitation.
While there are times I find her unpredictability maddening, it is always entertaining. I have never once asked her, “What’s new?” and gotten a response like, “Not much.” With her, there is always something new. She is terrified of being bored, or worse, being considered boring. She has a way of making everyone else I know look at banal as a bowl of oatmeal.
As we sipped our coffees she began to tell me about her latest adventure. She’d recently spent a week in Bali, or perhaps it was Bhutan. The location made little difference. She went to a retreat of some sort. There were a bunch of new age, yogi sounding words in the title. Something about finding purpose and inner happiness. She repeated the words “enlightenment” and “tolerance” a number of times. As if to prove this retreat had changed her life, she wore a shirt that said “Coexist” in Sanskrit.
Somewhere in our conversation she grew sad about the state of our country, lamenting how divided the nation is and how much better off we’d all be if we practiced more kindness. As if on cue, a man wearing Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hat entered the coffee shop.
He got his coffee and looked around for a seat. The only empty stool was the one next to my friend, her coat and purse piled on top of it. “Here,” I said to him, motioning toward the stool. “We can move our stuff and make room for you.”
My friend went noticeably rigid.
The man thanked us and sat down with his drink and newspaper. My friend and I continued our conversation, but the tone changed dramatically. Instead of gushing about her experience, and acceptance and tolerance, her words shifted to nouns like “racism” and “misogyny.” It was as if she was daring the man next to her interject.
Perhaps he was hard of hearing or entirely immersed in his newspaper. Or maybe he just wanted to have a peaceful cup of coffee without getting into an argument with a stranger. Either way, he didn’t take the bait. But when he got up to use the restroom, I did.
“Don’t you think it’s ironic you’re wearing a shirt that says coexist, but you don’t want to do so with a Trump supporter? You’ve spent the last hour wishing we’d all be kinder and more tolerant of each other, but the last five minutes you’ve shown you don’t think that applies to the man sitting next to you. How can you demand tolerance and kindness and acceptance and equality for women, minorities, gays, different religions and others, yet seemingly deny it to someone who voted differently than you?”
The man returned to his seat before she could answer, but she gave me a firm nod. Then turned to him and introduced herself and began asking a few questions: “Where are you from? What do you do? What brings you town?”
We learned about his grandkids who were out skiing. He told us he recently retired and hoped to spend more time in Park City. He spoke fondly about his daughter and son-in-law who had recently moved here. All in all, it was a pleasant conversation that would have likely started the moment he sat down had he been wearing a different hat.
When he left, my friend thanked me for calling her out her hypocrisy, and I admitted I’d been guilty of the same. It can be easy to demand kindness for the little guy, or tolerance for a cause you’re committed to. But how can we expect it of others unless we’re willing to invite them to have a seat at our table?
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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In Teri Orr’s decades of traveling to Boulder, Utah, she does “what comes naturally — I listen to the conversations about what matters most to the folks who live there.”