My father always told me not to discuss 3 things in the United States: Politics, Religion and Guns.
Unfortunately, I’m a bad listener. (Sorry Dad)
Also unfortunately, a recent election in America has seen politics and religion creeping more and more into daily conversation and pop culture. The Gun rhetoric seems unchanged.
And so it was that my Canadian friend and I found ourselves talking to a new British acquaintance at a bar in West Hollywood on Monday night. The bartender was very friendly and we joked with him about colloquial differences (the word fries versus chips for example – riveting stuff) when I proudly proclaimed us a trio of Commonwealth “immigrants”.
“So long as you’re all legal immigrants” the Bartender shot back, pouring another PBR for the hipster at the end of the bar (just kidding, it was for me. Pabst Blue Ribbon was the cheapest beer on the menu, and I am by no means a beer connoisseur so…I’d drink anything so long as it had a 4% alcohol content or above…)
I felt my lovely Canadian friend bristle beside me, so in true Paris conversation bulldozer fashion, I tried to cover up the awkward silence with as many words as I could squeeze out of my mouth in a minute as possible.
To say the discussion took a turn for the tense would be an understatement. As our new British friend tried to make fun of his own countries recent “Brexit”, the bartender unloaded on us with his personal political views.
Apparently, (in his view) anyone in the world was a better choice than “that woman.” At least Trump was a straight talker who spoke up for the little guys, the under represented poor in small town America. Apparently, the LA elite (and this guy who clearly lived and worked in LA was somehow not included in this supposed super group) had no idea of the plight of the little guy.
“Actually on average, Trump supporters were wealthier than Hilary supporters” piped up the Brit.
The bartender rolled his eyes as he polished a glass.
“And where did you get that information? Some nameless pundit on a biased news channel?”
The Brit looked thoughtful “do you mean the fake news?” he asked quietly and supposedly innocent (although my Australian sarcasm alarm went off WOOP WOOP WOOP).
“I didn’t say those words” shot back the bartender “I’m just saying, where do they get those facts?”
“Well from conducting survey’s etc” said the Brit, still calmly sipping his beer, while beside me, I felt the Canadian growing stiffer and stiffer gripping her wine.
“HOW ABOUT THOSE HANDSHAKES EH?!” I threw in, trying to lighten the mood while also thinking “don’t ask about guns don’t ask about guns…”
The bartender continued, talking about how Trump was good for the economy, and would clean up immigration. We felt others at the bar listening in. An older couple, were on edge. At one point the male half threw in a comment and his wife whispered “BEN! Don’t! Don’t get involved.” They left shortly after.
It all ended when the Canadian asked him if he really thought a man who wanted to get rid of abortion and marriage equality, and who clearly was a misogynist should be the leader of such a large and powerful country. The other bartender AND THE bouncer reminded the politically charged bartender that his shift was over.
In fact the bouncer asked pointedly “so what are you going to do with the rest of your night off?!”
“I thought I’d talk politics” shot back our new friend, trying to lighten the mood.
The others working glared at him until he finally got the message and began logging out.
“So…did you vote for Trump?” I asked tentatively, in the ensuing awkwardness (silence hurts my ears and also… there is something wrong with me called “can’t-let-it-go-itis).
“Oh no” replied the bartender, shaking our hands on the way out as if there were no hard feelings “no I didn’t vote.”
The next round of drinks was on the house.