The turn was sharp, the passageway narrow. I was just making the turn when an man, about my age, grunted in frustration behind me. I then heard him leave, hurry around the side and enter the back entrance. There were two tables left, he took the corner table, I aimed for the one next to it. I caught his eye when he looked up at me, with annoyance in his eyes, and I said, “I’m sorry, it took me a second to make the turn. I’m sorry that I slowed you down for a moment. I’m sorry that I exist in the world and take up space in the world and that I inconvenience important people like you.” I said it loud enough for everyone in the coffee shop to hear but I didn’t shout, I simply spoke firmly.
He was stunned. Then he started being overtly nice. “Would this table be better for you? I could switch tables? I really don’t mind.” He was desperate for me to accept his charity and make it all better. “I don’t need your table,” I said, “I need respect as an equal human being. Respect. Not charity.”
I then moved the chairs around such that my back was to him, this wasn’t easy, but I was done with him and the interchange. Joe then arrived with the tea and the first thing he said was, “Why is the guy at the next table so angry.” Given he asked the question, I explained loudly enough for him to hear what happened and how it pisses me off when people treat me as a thing in the way rather than a person who needs and has a right to space and time.
The fellow behind drank his coffee quickly and left quickly.
Did he learn anything? I don’t care.
And sometimes me matters.