When I was 22 I worked at a record store in a small town in Central Pennsylvania. It was mom and pop shop run by a husband-wife team. There were six employees total. I loved that job.
My boyfriend at the time was a chef. He worked at the best five-star restaurant in town. This place was outstanding. He worked directly alongside the head chef and owner. He was second in command, aka the sous-chef. He was important.
One night after work, he came home and told me about a large table that had come in and spent close to a thousand dollars. They had the meal of their lives. One of the members of that party happened to be a guy I worked with at the record shop. Knowing I was dating the sous-chef, he had asked the waiter if he might say hello. My boyfriend, as well as the owner, came out to thank them for their business and chat for a bit. Everyone was happy.
After the table left for the night, and it came time to clean up, a teenage bus girl expressed worry about cleaning up after this particular table because she “might get AIDS”. My boyfriend and I found this hysterically stupid as did everybody else working at the time. They made fun of her, told her to shut up and clean up. It was absurd, plain and simple.
The following day, my coworker told me all about the amazing meal they had had the night before. We discussed the food, the ambiance, the staff, the owner and my boyfriend. It was a casual conversation just like every other conversation I’d had with him. We were friends so I figured I could share with him the story about the idiotic bus girl. At the time, I figured he’d find it as stupid as I had. I assumed we’d discuss the bigotry people still held toward gay men and how much needed to change. I figured he’d laugh, call her ignorant and we’d be done with it. But the moment the words came out of my mouth, I knew I’d made a horrible mistake. He was visibly upset. I could tell immediately my actions had just set into motion a massive snowball of terrible reactions. I was sick to my stomach.
Well, calls were made and many people got into a lot of trouble including my boyfriend. My boyfriend was reprimanded for not coming to the owner and letting him know that night. He was scolded for telling me—or anyone. This was really, really bad for business. My boyfriend was crushed, and totally freaking out. I had created such a huge mess.
The guy I worked with wanted the girl fired. He was livid that he’d spent so much of his money at an establishment that willingly employs such a homophobic, ignorant person. He went on to suggest that there were probably others working there who held the same ignorant beliefs. He vowed never to eat there again. He would be sharing the story with all of his friends.
I felt terrible. I had been the catalyst for such negativity. Even now, almost 20 years later, the situation makes me cringe. If only I had known better. What had I been thinking?
At the time, and I mean this, I thought things would never be the same again. Being young, and living within the moment as much as we’re capable of throughout our lives, has a way of making one feel that the worst scenarios will last forever. Being young has a way of making you think nothing will ever be the same again, that you might never recover from any given awful event. And these horrible situations happen repeatedly until you (hopefully) learn your lesson, once and for all, and realize what consequences are. You start to figure out what is right and wrong and what should be avoided. Before opening your mouth, or sending that email, you ask yourself, “What good can come from this?” And after mentally exhausting all possible outcomes only then do you proceed.
Of course things did eventually settle down. The girl was forced to apologize in writing and later let go. The guy I worked with was offered a free meal and a heartfelt apology. My boyfriend kept his job but it was hard for a while and it took a while for the owner to trust him again. And I was seen as a shit-starter, a gossip queen. I was no longer treated as I once was, respected by those who ran the place. And that felt pretty awful.
I had made a terrible decision and suffered the consequences. That was my punishment. And the next time, hopefully, I would choose a different direction.
I think this is what it means to grow up. This is all part of the humility that comes with age and experience. You make mistakes in your teens and twenties and suffer through those consequences (sometimes repeatedly) in order to avoid adult consequences in the future. Because adult consequences? They are often a whole lot bigger and take a great deal more work and heartache to recover from. And adult consequences often include other people, individuals who rely on us for survival. Adult consequences actually do sometimes last forever.
Adult consequences, due to my own piss-poor actions, are consequences I try very, very hard to avoid.
Because I try so hard to avoid adult consequences, I am continually amazed at those my age and older who continue to make such thoughtless decisions, particularly those in the public eye or those in positions of power. Dennis Rodman is chumming it up with one of the most horrific people on planet Earth, which is fine. He’s a grown man; he can hang out with whomever he chooses. But then he gets in front of a camera and spews some drunken nonsense for the whole world to watch, potentially endangering a man currently imprisoned in North Korea.
Grownup consequences, in this case, could cost someone their life.
On Twitter, not a week goes by where we don’t witness someone backpedalling after tweeting something completely ignorant. The whole world watched a PR Executive tweet a racist joke and then lose her job all in under 24 hours.
Grownup consequences took her job and basically wrote her off as a potential hire elsewhere. Who’s going to hire a PR Executive who made such a terrible PR move?
There was the MSNBC anchor who went on and on about Romney’s mixed-race grandchild; the guy from Duck Dynasty who was given a platform to spew his nonsense and I still don’t quite understand why or how he has a TV show of his own. There was the tech editor who tweeted some bigoted nonsense about women in tech, he was promptly fired for his audacity, rightly so. There are just so many of them, so many WTF moments, they all start to blur together.
And now there’s the whole Governor Christie, GW Bridge fiasco. I don’t want to go on and on about what happened. At this point, you’re probably well aware of every angle and all the absurdity involved. But I will say this: I listened to his speech yesterday and I believe him. I don’t think he knew his staffers were up to such stupid acts. You may call me gullible, but I do believe him. I’m floored, however, that these grown ass adults made such stupid mistakes. What were they thinking? Why put that shit in writing? Do they not understand how email works? That nothing is private?
How is it they didn’t scrutinize their every move, ESPECIALLY since they are public officials? And what type of environment did Governor Christie cultivate letting them feel this would be OK?
What a mess.
I’m truly baffled by the whole ordeal. And now we’re learning there might be legal ramifications. We are discovering that at least one woman may have died due to the lane closures because emergency personal weren’t able to get to her in time.
Grownup consequences, Mr. Wildstein and Ms. Kelly. They are a bitch.
We all make mistakes. I will continue to make them and I have a ton of regrets and they pile on each and every day of my life. I carry mine like a pack mule. And we all deserve second chances–even thirds, fourths and fifths. But holy HELL, people, all it takes sometimes to avoid a massive FAIL is to ask yourself that one simple question: “What good can come from this?”
Because chances are the answer is gonna be “Not a whole hell of a lot.” So choose wisely because adult consequences suck.