Not your average Saturday in Cleveland

Saturday, June 24, was weird. I woke up to a sweet Lake Erie breeze coming in through the huge windows of the loft-style apartment where I’ve been living since February. The sky had that look that indicates it will be a sunny, mostly clear day.

yoga
Hundreds of yogis took part in a mass yoga class on the streets of downtown Cleveland on June 24.

I did some work after drinking my coffee, with the news on television. There was nothing too horrible in the headlines—or perhaps I am getting used to the new normal in these tumultuous times.

Breakfast. For a few weeks now, I’ve been going to a locally owned place called Yours Truly on either Saturday or Sunday. There are several around the Cleveland area, and I can walk to one downtown. It’s just shy of Playhouse Square.

The previous Saturday I’d gone in, and a server told me I couldn’t sit in a window booth because it was reserved. There was no sign or anything on the table. He said the reservation had just come in. OK, fine. The other window booth was occupied, so I sat elsewhere.

On my most recent visit, after another server told me I could sit in a vacant window booth, server #1 swooped in to say it was reserved. I pointed out that I was told I could sit there and he said server #2 didn’t know about the reservation. I was furious. And I usually don’t get furious.

I asked to be seated elsewhere—not in server #1’s section—and to see the manager. After outlining what had happened, I received an apology and assurances that I was in the right. There was no particular explanation for the way server #1 behaved, but I was offered my meal for free.

Then, the general manager came down and gave me his card. Another apology. Oh! And both told me the restaurant doesn’t even take reservations; it’s first come, first served.

I don’t know what actions the manager took; I could see server #1 working as if nothing had happened.

So, what should I conclude?

  • Racial discrimination
  • Gender discrimination
  • Solo diner discrimination (a.k.a. fear of meager tip)
  • Some combination of the above

I posted this experience on my Facebook Page and many friends opted for the racial discrimination explanation. As I left, I noted four black women were now seated in a window booth.

Needless to say, I took to Yelp and TripAdvisor to share my frustration. A sad experience, since I really like the Yours Truly Barcelona omelet. (Blog continues below map)

Still steaming, I walked toward Playhouse Square, where the universe instantly tried to make up for what had happened at the restaurant. The area’s busy intersection was blocked off from traffic for the huge Tri-C Jazz Fest stage, surrounding which sat hundreds of people on yoga mats, waiting for the session to begin.

The vibe was just as you might expect: reggae music floated through speakers and the yogis–mostly women—murmured, chatted, and stretched. I stayed around to watch for a bit, not being a yogi myself: Quite a sight! I felt better.

Next, I wandered down to the area near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where people were lining up to get into the Cleveland Pride Festival. There were smiles and laughter everywhere.

After that, I headed over to Public Square where the Cleveland Pride Parade was about to begin. I noted with interest that the largest contingents represented the likes of Walmart, USBank and Giant Eagle. Churches were well represented, as were a handful of political candidates.

To see the exuberance and joy in the faces of the people marching made me emotional.

Realization: This is what it looks like when people, long marginalized and worse, can celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So, I wrapped up my morning rambles by heading back to the apartment. It was not quite 1 p.m., and I was spent.

pride_4
USBank employees carried this massive flag in the Cleveland Pride Parade on June 234.
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