I have a confession to make: I am a liar. I have deliberately told an untruth about a fellow human being, with the intent to convince my listeners to believe something unsavory about that person and to affect her negatively. Shame on me? You decide. The story that follows has virtually no connection to Mormonism, other than that I happen to be Mormon, the Gospel demands that we not bear false witness against our neighbor, and I did so anyway with reckless abandon. All you amateur Mormon ethicists out there are invited to weigh in on my actions and call me to repentence … or not.
One fine afternoon about two years ago, I pulled up to the drive-through at Jack-in-the-Box. I don’t particular care for Jack-in-the-Box, but as it was down the street from my wife’s work, I often bought something to eat there. I frequented the place enough that the Latino employees at the drive-through window knew me by sight, and would always smile and say hello. I would do the same. On this particular occasion, a homeless black man, probably in his late 70′s, walked past my car, passively looking for a handout. I politely brushed him off, as I often do in these situations. A few moments later, as I was thinking about whether to order the buttermilk ranch or the Red Hot sauce with my chicken strips, I was suddenly jolted out of my stupor by a loud, caustic stream of racist vulgarities unlike any I had ever heard before. I turned around and witnessed the following scene: The black man had approached the car behind me, soliciting some change. The trashy-looking woman driving the car lit into him with the most obscene tirade imaginable. “Get the f*ck away from my car you f*cking n*gger!” she screamed. A continuing stream of F-words and N-words continued to flow from her lips. The volume and intensity of her bile was mind-blowing. I can honestly say I have never heard such a shocking display of hateful, racist filth in my entire life. No R-rated movie I’d ever seen could compare. No episode of Jerry Springer could ever come close (even without the censors). Even that Korean woman in testimony meeting couldn’t hold a candle to this crone.
The black man’s reaction was interesting. He was clearly shocked by the treatment he received, and I got the impression that he probably hadn’t been talked to like this in a very long time. His initial, visceral response was to lunge at the car instinctively, as if he wanted to strike out at the window, but he stopped himself before he actually did so. Keep in mind that this was a very elderly gentleman, so I doubt he was prone to physical violence as a rule. The woman was unphased, and continued her racist tirade unabated.
I immediately became furious. Despite the occasional moral indignation I display on the internet, people who know me in real life will tell you that I rarely get visibly angry, if ever. I am known for my rather narrow range of emotional states: jaded, sarcastic, and more sarcastic. Thus, I hadn’t felt this way for as long as I could remember. It was like I was in a Charles Bronson movie, or I was sitting in Harrison Ford’s buggy, watching the tourists pick on the Amish guy. I was pissed.
The black man decided to ignore his verbal assailant, and he walked past my car again. I decided to lean out the window and hand him 2 dollars. He asked me if I’d just buy him a couple tacos instead, which I agreed to do. This gesture earned me an earful from the woman behind. “F*cking Saab-driver!” she yelled, over and over again. (Ouch – “Saab-driver”! What a put down! She really got me good with that one!). This gave me the opportunity to do something I don’t think I’ve done since highschool. Down went my window, and up went my middle finger. (Juvenile and crass? Perhaps, but it somehow seemed appropriate at the time.)
I drove up to the pick-up window, paid for my food, handed the gentleman his tacos, and proceeded to drive off. The placement of the drive-through window and the exit at this location was such that I had to double back 180 degrees to leave the parking lot. In doing so, I passed right by the drive-through window again, just as the woman in the car was picking up her food. With my window down, I was able to hear her conversation with two Jack-in-the-Box employees. In a very irate tone, she was demanding to speak to the manager, in order to complain about the black man that had been “harrasing” her in the parking lot. She insisted that the restaurant see to it that he was kicked off the premises.
At this point, I snapped. I stopped my car, got out, and walked up to the drive-through window, placing myself squarely between the window and the woman in the car. I proceeded to talk to the employees in Spanish. (I’m as white as white can be, so it always comes as a shock to Latinos when I can speak their language. I figured my speaking Spanish might help my credibility in this instance.) I indignantly explained to the employees that they should pay this woman no heed, as she was a lying, hateful “racista” whose only motivation was to malign an innocent black man and to provoke an ugly incident. But I felt like this wasn’t enough. I needed to say something else, to really dissuade the employees from having sympathy for her duplicitous claims. And then it happened …
I decided to lie.
I continued addressing the Latino employees, but I switched to English, making sure that the woman in the car would understand me. “And that’s not all,” I fibbed. “This lady also made some ugly comments about you! After insulting that black man, she started mouthing off about how the “damn, dirty Mexicans” at this restaurant should be sent back toTijuana! So you guys decide if this is someone you want to take seriously.” The employees looked at the woman and then looked at me with wide-eyes. They’re faces seemed to turn white.
I shot a knowing glance at the woman in the car myself, gave her a big cheesy grin, and walked off.