By Kathy Khang. Cross-Posted from kathykhang.com.
The older man walked up to the closed register next to me and looked at the wretched KFC/Pizza Hut menu at the travel oasis/rest stop near Elkhart, Indiana. He asked about the fried chicken hiding behind the greasy cough-guard. I wondered if he was going to do what I thought it looked like he was going to do, and I wrestled with what I would do if he tried to cut in front of the line. He stands with a curve in his back, pants hemmed too short and hair disheveled. He is older, if not elderly, with white, thinning hair. I can’t take the Korean out of me. We respect our elders. Should I just let him go? I just want to feed my sons terrible fast food, get back on the road and get home.
But he goes on, putting in his order and pulling out some money, and the cashier tells him there is line that he will have to join. The line is now about 8 people deep, not including me and my two teenage sons.
The older man, let’s call him Gerald, looks back at the line, looks at me and asks, "What do you need food for?"
I;m hoping he is joking, though he isn't cracking a smile, so I respond as kindly as I can with a smile (I have now listened to Hamilton five times on this road trip and I can't stop thinking "talk less, smile more"), "I need food to eat, just like you do."
Gerald looks at me and my sons and says, "You don't need food. Go back to your country and eat the food there."
By the way, Gerald is white. I am not.