Op-Ed

Harrowing tale straight out of East Tennessee

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In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, some stores around the country are posting signs that say they will not serve gays. I called a straight friend of mine, Todd, and invited him to come visit for a weekend to discuss the political importance of the ruling.

I was not concerned when he did not show up on time; delays caused by construction and accidents are common. But when he did not show up for three days and never answered my calls, I thought the worst. In desperation, I decided to drive toward his hometown to see if I could find him.

Fortunately, after a lot of work, I managed to find Todd barely alive in a small-town jail in East Tennessee. He was dehydrated, emaciated and bruised horribly. I gave him food and water. When he recovered, he told me what had happened.

His car had broken down in this little burg where most of the town were gays and lesbians. No one would give him a ride because he was straight. No wrecker service would tow his car because he was straight. No restaurant would serve him because he was straight. His phone had died but no one would let him use theirs because he was straight.

He could not find a room in the hotel because he was straight. The water fountains were all labeled GAY ONLY. He could not even sit in an air-conditioned lobby because none of the establishments would tolerate having straights on site.

By now, Todd was scared as well as hungry and thirsty. He took a seat across the street from a McDonald’s near a school. When students walked by, he gave one a $20 bill and asked him to go get him some food and drinks. After a long wait, the boy came back accompanied by the store manager and the police. The manager told the policeman to arrest Todd because he was obviously using a bribe to recruit the boy to be straight.

When my friend tried to explain what happened, the policeman knocked him down with his nightstick, handcuffed him and took him to the jail where I found him. The only reason he was still alive is that by law the police had to feed him bread and water.

A judge had heard of all this and agreed to expedite a hearing. By sheer coincidence, I had met the judge at a Gay Pride Event last year and he was sympathetic to Todd’s plight. I assured him that Todd had not chosen to be straight, but he was born that way. I am not sure he believed me, but after listening to several Judy Garland and Elton John albums, comparing notes on floral arrangements and the proper use of pastel colors in window treatments, the judge relented and offered to free my friend with a $100 fine and a promise to never come back to the town again.

He had the car fixed in exchange for my recipe for poppy seed pound cake and an autographed photo of Liza Minnelli.

I thanked the judge and mechanic and followed Todd out of town back to his home. After he got some medical attention, he embraced me and said how lucky he was to have me as a friend.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief and silently said a prayer to God: Thank God, Todd is not left-handed.

Roger Guffey of Lexington is a math professor. Reach him at rlguffey1@insightbb.com.

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