Sunday, August 2, 2009

No Need to Generalize

At lunch at a fast food Mexican restaurant called "El Pollo Loco" here in Los Angeles, and I sat eating my flame-grilled chicken. With a view of the counter, I watched the customers enter and order. An extremely tall woman with long, straight Cher-like hair and with a sturdy bone structure that proved the woolly mammoth isn't really extinct but merely evolved stood in front of the cashier. Behind her were two men, and one was wearing a cap with a truck on the front of it with a ponytail that was poking through the opening in the back, and the other was wearing a Nascar cap. Both had on navy work pants and dirty white T-shirts. Rubbing his belly and then adjusting the ponytail, the chubbier one said, "I ain't never seen a woman taller than me." In a voice deeper than mine and my mom's, the woman turned around and said, "You haven't?" Noticing the woman's massive hands and canoe-sized feet that were covered in shoes that had to have been special ordered, I didn't have the heart to tell the fellow that he still had never seen a woman taller than him. "And she's beautiful, too," the shorter man with a few missing teeth stated. Just as I was preparing to swallow a bite of my chicken breast that I'd dipped in the creamy cilantro dressing, the chubbier one said to the shorter one, "Jesse, she could kick your ass, too, if you messed with her." I nearly choked on my food, as I laughed out loud. Following a Cher hair flip, the woman turned around to face the two men and said, "I've been known to do that before." The shorter man replied, "Take him down first. He's got a big-ass mouth." Smiling, the woman leaned her head to the side, giving me a better view of her Adam's apple. She then grabbed her to go order from the hands of the young employee and said to the men on her way toward the door, "Could one of you men open the door for the lady?" The chubbier one nearly pushed the shorter one out of the way in order to do the honors. "Have a good one, Sexy," he said.

Over the past few weeks, I've met a few jaded folks, ones whose dreams haven't turned out as they had planned. I usually ignore their negative views, for I have great compassion for them, understanding how frustrating it is to constantly be told "no." Sometimes, though, one can't remain silent. Following an introduction from the trainer at the local gym, I conversed with a fellow writer in the lobby. "I'm from Oklahoma City. So where are you from?" he asked. I said, "The South. Mountains of North Carolina, rural Georgia, and Atlanta." He smiled and nodded. "Well, L.A. is a lot like Atlanta." I smiled and said, "Yeah, it's a big city, and there are a lot of talented people here." "I wasn't really talking about that," he said, adding, "I haven't really spent any time in Atlanta, but I think the people are nice to your face there but not so nice when you turn around. That's the way L.A. is, too." I paused for a few seconds, and then I said. "Hmm. I've met a lot of very nice, honest, and wonderful people here. And I left a lot of very nice, honest, and wonderful people back in Atlanta." He forced a smile, and then said, "Sorry. And I do know some good people here. "And you've just met a good person from Atlanta," I said. "Have a good rest of the day. I'll see you around."

From the dress and dialogue of the ogling men, I would have never placed them in Los Angeles. In the Northwest? Never. In the Northeast? Never. In the Midwest? Maybe. In the Southwest? Maybe. In the South? For sure! Like the guy from the gym, I, too, am guilty at times of putting the masses in labeled boxes. However, when he slammed "my people" in the South, I became well aware that there is no need to generalize. I had to make him aware of that, too, but I did it in a sweet and Southern way.

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