Little Ditty ‘Bout Adam and Wayne

I was at a conference when Adam, the waiter at the hotel restaurant, showed his swishy sense of humor right away. I’d walked into the empty dining room and joked, wondering how he’d be able to manage with this huge crowd. He came back lightning speed with a quip and so, began an evening of nonstop laughter.

Adam said he was working alone that night. I felt immediate empathy as I recalled the time I’d spent with Wayne in a similar situation. It was in the 1960’s and I was working my way through college as a waitress at a small hotel and supper club near the campus. Wayne was the bartender.

My usual customers were traveling salesmen, men who went from town to town on a prescribed route to get orders from their regular customers. Every Tuesday, the man from the paper supply company. Every Thursday, the man from the paint business.

Between 5:00 and 6:30 every guest in the hotel, all traveling salesmen, swooped down into the dining room until each of the fifteen tables was occupied by one person. Fifteen set ups, fifteen orders, fifteen pick-ups and fifteen clean-ups. What a job!

Each shift, I’d come in early since I was the only waitress and had to be ready for the influx. That meant bread baskets stacked high and condiments filled to the top. I recall how my heart sank each time I came from the kitchen to see another solitary figure at the door waiting to be seated. Such relief to finally look up at an empty doorway. I’d made it another night, I sighed.

Once everything was set up and before customers started arriving, I’d sit at the bar with Wayne, the only bartender. He was a student of poetry. We’d chat about school, friends and such. It was like talking to a girlfriend, heavy on feelings and emotions, short on events, possessions and the other things men usually talk about.

During a few rushes, mine not his, Wayne would deliver bread baskets for me and check for second drink orders, sometimes taking them to the tables himself. He kept a tight eye on how I was doing and I was so appreciative when he asked if there was anything else he could do. After the evening was over, Wayne and I would sit at the bar for a while and talk some more. Once I’d jokingly tried to give him some of my tips but he refused.

Wayne was self-protective; it took him months to finally talk about the man who was his English professor love interest. It was unknown territory for me to find out about their need for discretion amidst the university politics that governed their relationship. I felt special that he trusted me. That experience taught me that gay men make the best girlfriends and Adam seemed another example of that.

How the name teasing started is a mystery. But amidst our joking, he said, “you can call me anything you want. Even Sally.” I know in these days of new openness and acceptance of gay issues, it’s now okay to say what was unthinkable long ago.

Our joking continued throughout the night until we laughed good bye to Sally as if we were old friends. It wasn’t until much later that I worried that I’d insulted him by calling him Sally the whole night. I tried to play back our conversation. Had I made a gross generalization, assuming he was gay when I really didn’t know? And couldn’t that be insulting too? Luckily I got a chance to right my wrong. If I’d even committed one, that is.

In a replay two nights later, we again entered an empty dining room. After the usual greeting and a continuation of our established jokes, I asked right away. Sally was adamant he’d not been insulted, saying , once again, I could call him anything I wanted.

Later he brought his boss over for introductions; we were the nice ladies who’d named him Sally, he explained. The boss said, without a blink, that she or all the other restaurant staff called him Amanda. So, he’s really Sally/Amanda/Adam.

Since the place was not busy, Sally had time for a chat. He said nonchalantly that he’d been married a few years earlier in California and his husband and he spent time throughout the year there, in Tennessee and in Wisconsin connecting with different factions of their families.

As we finished our meal, Sally delivered two gourmet chocolate desserts. He said his grandmother always told him that when you meet people who make a difference you should be extra nice to them. He walked off too quickly for us to respond. I think I saw the hint of a blush.

All I could think was the world is getting better. Here was a proud gay man who almost instantly could share his whole, true self without recrimination. I hope Wayne is somewhere enjoying the same freedom. And while I know Adam lives in a world that can also be judgmental, I’m happy that my friend and I could share a special time with a very nice person who just happened to be a little different than us. But also very much the same.

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