Thomas Conley is a retired patent attorney and grandfather of four who in April went to a North Omaha Applebee’s, accompanied by two friends who are also rich white men.
Conley complained to a passing hostess that his cheeseburger was “cold and nearly raw” — a typical baseless complaint from rich white men who are used to throwing around their privilege like a firecracker on the Fourth of July — so the hostess said that he had better hurry up and eat it before it got even colder.
Conley, who is so rich and white that he enjoys golfing and listening to NPR’s “This American Life,” launched into a hate-filled tirade.
“Just send over my waitress.” Yes, he really said that.
Customer Melissa Sacco, 33, overheard the remark, so she leapt into action, informing him that no woman — no matter how little she earns — belongs to him.
“I used to work in the service industry, so I know what it’s like when a rich white man tries to claim ownership over you even if slavery was abolished 450 years ago,” she said. “I couldn’t just sit there while this type of language of oppression oozed out of his rich white mouth.”
Not only did Conley refuse to back down, he repeated his claim of ownership, saying, “I just want my waitress to send my food back.”
Would this guy ever learn?
By this time, half the restaurant was listening, so when Conley asked for “my waitress” a third time, everyone closed in, arms outstretched, forming a small consciousness-raising circle around him, chanting “rich privilege out, white privilege out, male privilege out.”
And do you know what? It worked. Forty-five scary minutes later, Conley emerged from the circle a new person with a clean outlook.
“My whole life, I thought that I could talk about ‘my waitress’ or ‘my barber’ or ‘my wife,’ but now I understand that’s not right,” he said. “I’m really only allowed to talk about myself, or those who expressly give me permission to recognize them in a manner consistent with my own subjective point of view.”
“Her name is Lisa,” he said, referring to the waitress in question, who had incidentally walked off the job minutes after serving the undercooked burger due to a spat with the manager.
But the story gets even better. Conley, 74, says that he’ll never make the same mistake again.