Dining with colleagues at a local establishment exposed us to the depth and breadth of local prejudice that is running rampant outside what I’ll term the PC zone. (Definition of a PC zone: All places where one must exhibit the trappings of tolerance and social propriety in order to maintain butter on one’s bread, else lose substantial income.)
We became victim to the proximity of lawyers and business owners who, thinking themselves somehow “off the record,” began to berate and spew hate-speak against anyone and everyone, from Native Americans to Germans, from Chinese to Irish, from English to Polish to Arab to African, and especially against blacks, homosexuals, and women. Obviously together even though they were spread over several tables, these bigots even grinned over at us who are a group of individuals who vary in skin color and sex. It seemed they knew they were being offensive and were totally enjoying themselves.
Then they began talking down anyone who wasn’t Christian. And, after that, came the vilifying of Catholics, Mormons, Christian Scientists, and other recognized Christian denominations who aren’t particularly well-thought-of by the more fundamental. This wasn’t particularly problematic for anyone at our table since most of us are either not affiliated with any religion whatsoever, or, if we are, we keep it to ourselves, well-used to this sort of biased speech.
However, we had, as a group, became very silent. What had been lively, vivacious conversation about progress in our various interests, organizations, and occupations became an embarrassed silence — embarrassment for them and their stupidity.
At the onset of all of this, one of the most locally prominent members of our group who had his back to the rest of the restaurant, glanced around, then pulled out a small box and placed it beside his plate. Lights danced. He then pulled out his cell phone and held it up before him as if it were a mirror. A flash went off.
He had a small, coy smile on his face as he tucked his cell phone away. We ate on in silence.
After awhile, the conversation around us lulled and dulled. Mr. Prominent switched off the box beside his plate, stuffed it into his suit coat pocket, and smiled around the table. “How about dessert?” he asked. Then, “By the way, did you know that, when it comes to recording conversations, we’re a one-party consent state?”