God tested my patience when we drove half way to North Carolina and stayed at the Embassy Suites in Savannah. The "Manager's Reception" had just started and that means free beer. We ordered ourselves a couple of tall drafts, but they didn’t have Miller Lite, so that was a little disappointing in itself. It was a Thursday evening and we didn’t find many people bellied up to the bar.
We drank our beers and engaged in small talk with the bartender until this one guy, two stools down from us, acknowledged my husband with a slight nod of his head.
"You a Marine?"
"Retired," Tim offered, though clearly scripted in bright red letters on the front of his shirt read the words "Retired USMC".
"My dad’s a retired Marine," the man said. "He joined back in the day when everyone hated the Japs."
I choked up some beer, but recovered quickly.
Okay, so I wasn't in the mood for a fight. I drank my beer in silence with this silly smirk on my face thinking, “You know what … if my husband wasn’t the respectable man that he is, I would climb over him right now and beat your ass.” Instead, I remained cordial and listened while they talked about military history and the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I had been thinking a lot lately about projecting a positive image of myself as this demure, older lady but I sensed my tolerance of the man wearing thin. I let it go because I knew later that Tim and I would laugh about the ignorance of the man. However, that same evening, we found a nice little watering hole outside the good city of Savannah and I had this great conversation with another gentleman.
“Where ya from?” he asked.
“Tallahassee,” I said.
“No, like where ya come from?”
My usual answer of “from my mother’s womb” came to mind, but the snarky answer remained inside my head. “You mean, what’s my nationality?” The calmness in my voice surprised me because I was highly irritated knowing exactly what he was asking.
“I’m half Japanese.” I took another sip of beer.
“Yea, I thought Asian, but not sure which kind since ya’all look alike," he said.
"Really? How so?" I motioned to the bartender for another draft so that I’d have something to do with my hand other than balling it up into a fist and shoving it down this man's throat.
"Ya’ll have slanted eyes," he said. Then he laughed and snorted and I think he even slapped his knee once.
I don’t know if it was the beer doing funny things to me or what, but when I turned to look at him, I saw these huge buck teeth and long ass donkey ears. I was speechless. Somehow, I didn’t have the heart to respond.
Can we just fast-forward to the year 2030 so I can see which group is getting all the hate? I can promise you I won’t be telling anyone that my son joined the Army back in the day when everyone hated those rag-heads who all look alike.
Maybe I should have given up my image of demure, older lady and beat the man's ass. Then he could go home and tell his friends, if he had any, just how violent those Japs are.