By Jenni Prokopy
This morning, I popped over to my fave local coffee shop for an iced coffee and a pastry or two. To my surprise, they were offering new gluten-free cookies, so I asked to try one.
Then I noticed the server handled them incorrectly: They were stored in the same basket as the other cookies, and he used the same tongs to pick them up as the other pastries.
Because I’m curious, I asked, “What happens when someone with celiac disease comes in? Will you use a different utensil? Will you put them in a different basket?” (I prefaced that by saying I was a health writer, simply curious, and I like to ask questions when I see a new offering from a local spot.)
The server admitted that they didn’t yet know how they’re supposed to handle gluten-free desserts, but that they haven’t had complaints yet from anyone. So I offered an anecdote about the baby shower I had attended the day before, where the hostess had celiac disease. Almost all the offerings were gluten-free, and she was a master of separating everything and handling foods with the right tools. I mentioned that cross-contamination was a serious issue but simple steps would make things easy for the coffee shop to serve their patrons well.
The entire conversation was about two minutes long, all while he grabbed my stuff and rang me up, and super-friendly. I thanked him, grabbed my stuff, and walked two feet down the counter to grab my coffee.
And then captain jerk-face stepped in.
Suddenly, I hear the patron who was behind me in line repeat everything I’ve said to the server in a mocking tone. And some of the others in line start laughing. I’m right there! Two feet away! The barista serves me my coffee, and we look at each other in shock. I say, “Hey I'm right here!” and she stutters, “I don't know what's happening...”
I lean over so the guys can see me and I wave. “Hey, I’m still here, guys,” I say loudly, and they don't even acknowledge me. They’re openly mocking me, for simply having a friendly conversation about the shop’s products. On which I've just spent money.
First, frustration fills me that they’re making fun of me. That’s just rude! Who thinks that's O.K.? Second, the shop clearly cares enough to want to serve patrons who need gluten-free options, so they should want to know how to do it correctly, and shouldn't tolerate that kind of rudeness. Third, who are these jerks who think it’s ridiculous to want to understand how these products are handled in a healthy way? I’d love to see what happens when they have a health issue and they’re openly mocked. “Sir, I'm sorry your leg is infected. Here’s a dirty bandage, I'll slap it on with some duct tape, and I'm sure it will be fine.” The other patients in the waiting room all chuckle and giggle. To me, that’s a pretty fair equivalent and I don’t think he’d find it funny.
All of this left me wondering how I might have handled the situation better. Should I have set down my coffee and confronted the patron who was openly mocking me? Asked him to step outside? Started a serious discussion? Said something funny to diffuse the situation?
Have you ever been openly (or covertly) mocked for any symptom related to your illness? How did you react?
Reprinted with permission from www.ChronicBabe.com