Diner wonders about stopping harassment
Dear Amy: This morning I was having breakfast in a cafe and I couldn’t help but overhear the interaction with our server at the table next to us. Our server was an attractive young woman. Two older men were seated at the next table. They were being rude, asking her questions about her race: (“What are you mixed with?” “What are you?” “Do all your women look like you?”).
One man reached out and was touching her arm and her wrist, while her body language clearly showed that she was uncomfortable. At one point one of the men said something quietly that I couldn’t hear, but her response was, “Oh, that’s a bit creepy,” with a polite laugh.
Although she remained professional serving them, she looked very upset when she left their table.
I wanted to scold them. But I didn’t want to embarrass our server.
What should I have done? — See Something, Say Something?
Dear Say Something: One of my daughters recently called the police when she witnessed verbal and physical harassment on a crowded subway car. When I asked her why she had done this, she said, “I guess I have finally just had enough.”
Of course, your diner episode does not rise to the level of police involvement. But yes, you should say something. I think we should all say something.
You could have said, “Gentlemen, I think it would be swell if you would stop harassing this young woman and let her do her job. In fact, I could use a refill.” (This would give her a reason to exit from their table.)
Then you could have spoken with the manager, describing the episode and giving them a heads-up to how professional she is. An extra-large tip (for her) would have demonstrated your support.
Yes, your intervention might have embarrassed the server (and the older men) in the moment. But — the fear of embarrassment has kept too many of us too quiet for too long. So speak up.