I went to comcast yesterday to take my extra modem back. the line was so long it was nearly out the door. At first I stood looking around, then realized I needed to take a ticket. I may have seemed uncertain, so a nice dressed young man, with what sounded like a russian accent, helped me out.

I took a number, waited for a moment, realized there were several seats open, then chose a place sit. I attempted to  said hello the woman next to me, whose response was a deep frown and a dismissive look which I may have misread as disgust for my rather large frame. I let it go, Im used to it. I see this kind of attitude on any given day when I go out.

Determined to keep my good mood, I smiled as I scanned the room, and waited for my turn. An older white haired gentleman came in, took an empty seat as soon as one was available and started chatting up the old grey haired gent next to him with regard to cars, engines and motors.

The white haired gent seemed nice at first, perfectly combed, brilliant white hair, in good shape for his 65 or 70ish years. His clothes, though casual, and much like older men wear on the golf course, suggested someone who was, or had been somewhat affluent.

When the gray haired gentleman moved away to take his turn at the counter, the white haired gentleman moved his conversation on to the next gentleman who, coincidentally, was also gray haired. With the older  men,  when he spoke to them– he seemed jolly, though a little too talkative for my tastes. And there was an undercurrent running beneath his chit chat that seemed off, so I avoided looking at him. I didnt want to be the next person he chatted up, and my number was near being called.

Since I was not looking in his direction, he started with the next available male who had the misfortune of facing toward his direction. The young man had a darker complexion, was dressed like any other american young man that you might see in a store or walking down the street. He was holding one of the comcast machines like many others in the room. Most had come in to trade their old comcast boxes for  newer ones. 

Until the old gent started in on the younger man, I never really thought of the younger man as hispanic or otherwise. He was just a guy waiting in line.

The first thing the older gent said was some purposely, or so it seemed to me, garbled attempt to ask the hispanic gentleman if he spoke spanish. Both the young man and I looked at the old white gent not quite certain what he was really trying to say. The older mans tone and attitude seemed somehow challenging and he was unapologetic and his poor attempts to speak spanish.

While the younger gentleman said nothing, we were soon to find out what the older gent was really all about. The old gent responded, to the younger mans failure to engage, by slightly chuckling. His chuckle seemed more like  a sneer than anything pleasant. He said, “Im trying to see if you speak spanish”. And indicated that he, himself, did not. Im sure  I, and everyone else in the small room, were thinking the same thing. “If you dont speak spanish than why are you asking if the young man if he does”?

Would you say to a someone else in the room, “Voule vu parle du francaise”? Now that’s my bad french, and forgive me for it. But I think you get what I am trying to demonstrate.

The younger gent, who may or may not have been hispanic, looked at the old man, tries to smile it away,  stayed calm and neutral in his expression and body language, and clearly, like me, did not want to engage this old fart, as I had come to  think of him, in any kind of conversation.

The old fart,  said, “not that I have anything against mexicans. As long as they aren’t illegal. You aren’t illegal are you? Because that’s the one thing I can’t tolerate. As long as you’re not illegal then I have no problem”.

At this point the old fart is practically staring at the young man,  his eyes reduced to narrower slits, as if squinting at the young man would reveal some kind of truth that the other was hiding. Im rolling my eyes, shaking my head in disbelief, and I really, really want to tell the old fart how rude he is. I really want to tell him to be quiet. But I don’t say anything because I am afraid anything I have to say will just escalate the situation into a worse situation.

Other people in the room, some of them, as I mentioned, having a russian,  or perhaps german accent say nothing. It is obvious they also believe the old fart is out of line, and like me, can’t believe how racist and rude he is behaving. If the old fart had been in the room when accents where heard, Im betting he would have been just as rude to them. Perhaps they were silent do as to avoid his attention. Or perhaps I misread them and they were anti-hispanic as well.

I was offended by the old fart because my daughter-in-law is half mexican, her mother is mexican-american as well. I was offended on behalf of the younger, possibly hispanic, gentleman and I was ashamed that I didnt speak up. Yes, possible keeping my big mouth shut meant things could just fade away…but I can’t help feeling like my silence was some kind of betrayal, In silence, I might have led the younger  man to believe, I  was just like that old white fart.

I can’t even imagine how this young man, who had no accent, and looked like every other american man in the room, must have felt when not one person spoke up. And I am so very sorry I couldn’t think of anything to say to erase that old farts rudeness.