"Plaza Cafe" (as it is known on the campus of UWMC) is one of the more mediocre hospital cafeterias in the Pacific Northwest. I know because I'm an expert. Dining out inside the Seattle city limits is usually more expensive, but you'd think that the hospital cafeteria would be in some kind of exception bubble since no one really wants to eat there. At Plaza Cafe, they charge full price.
The kids were thrilled that I got them that I said they could get a donut and excitedly watched as their father stumbled with the donuts, eggs, bacon, juice, bagels and anything else money could buy to a table as far away as possible from any of the other involuntary customers. The kids chowed it all and then began running laps around the room. People just stared at them, half in shock and half indifferent. They didn't quite understand. Isn't there a Sawyer Brown song about this?
UWMC doesn't have any kids' play areas inside or out, so the kids convinced me to let them play outside in the outdoor seating area on the wheelchair ramp, just like Grandma did back in November. While they were running up and down the ramp and shimmying down the hand rails, I decided to call my boss and tell him I "probably wouldn't make it in today."
As I got sent to voicemail, I heard a voice behind me:
"You kids, get back inside! Where are your parents? You can't be out here like this!"
I turned and looked directly at a nurse. My kids were devastated, but intimidated by someone who came after them with so much force. I hung up the phone and saw my kids glance my direction as the woman began to lead the kids back inside. They were 10 feet away. 20 feet away. I stared directly at all three of them as they were walking. Now I was curious as to how long this was going to go on.
It wasn't that hard to make the connection that the kids were with me, but I guess if you've got certain preconceived notions, your brain keeps you from seeing the obvious. 30 feet away. She starts talking to the kids,
"Where's your mommy?"
And I interrupt, "I am their father."
Mariah answers, "My mommy is sick!"
Nurse turns around and looks at me and then them and says, "I'm sorry! I thought you were just some guy on the phone."
"That's my daddy! Mommy's sick and in the hopsidal."
Nurse responds, "Well, she's gonna get better. Sorry, I thought you were out here alone."
"It's OK. We were headed inside, anyhow."
The nurse quickly walked back inside and so did we. She was shaking her head. I was shaking from delirious laughter.
I think I just got racially profiled.
Yes: the woman appeared to be African American.
Yes: she did make a snap judgment about how unlikely it would be that this Mexican guy could be father to two black kids.
Yes: she totally embarrassed herself and distressed my children.
No: I'm not going pound my chest, squint my eyes and quote MLK.
Why? Because it's just not that big of a deal. It's funny enough to blog about, but only serves (at best) as a weak illustration that prejudice works both ways and so many other things that everyone already knows.
She didn't mean anything by it. I repeat: she didn't mean anything by it. And--really--good for her for taking charge of her hospital. A little overzealous, but hey...