"That man called me boy," he finally told me, unprompted, while pointing his eyes toward an older white gentleman in blue overalls.
"He said, 'boy, go get me some sweet tea,'" the waiter went on, mostly under his breath. He didn't want anyone else to hear.
"I'm a man! I'm a father," he told me. I could see that he was fighting back tears and the urge to show that man, in no uncertain terms, that he was no one's boy.
The waiter, a black man in his 30s, told his white supervisor about the incident but was told to just ignore it, that maybe the man didn't mean any harm.
But he couldn't -- it hurt too much -- and that's why he was standing at my table, commiserating with the only other black person in the restaurant. He had no other option. He couldn't confront the man directly without the potential of being called overly sensitive or, worse yet, losing his job.
I left him a larger-than-usual tip in hopes that gesture might provide some respite in an untenable situation. He needed the job. But he needed his dignity, too. He struggled, and in the end did what many had done before him -- swallowed hard and got back to work.
That was a few months ago. His was one of many stories that came back to me after election night, because it is illustrative of what many people of color are feeling as the words "President-elect Donald Trump" seep into their consciousness.
While much of the media has been focused on what motivated Trump voters, particularly struggling whites -- was it economic angst or racial animus? -- little attention has been paid to the toll this election has taken on people of color.
Just as that waiter's white supervisor told him to ignore what he was feeling, the media and many white voters have essentially told people of color to ignore the horror they haven't yet been able to shake. And just like that black waiter, people of color are forced to find a way to deal with this new reality while trying to maintain their dignity.
They don't have any good options. They are told to not be bothered by the realization that many of their white friends, associates and colleagues -- in the form of white voters -- were as undisturbed by Trump's open bigotry as that waiter's supervisor, who was not concerned by the white man calling his employee boy, a term once routinely used to intimidate and demean black people in the Jim Crow South.
They are asked to ignore what was revealed during this election cycle, to peacefully accept the results and give the new guy a chance. They are told to do this for a man who, in many respects, spent his campaign demeaning people of color in the way that black waiter felt demeaned after being called boy. That came on the heels of Trump having spent years doing the same to the nation's first black president through a birther movement that had nearly three-quarters
of Republicans doubting that Barack Obama was born in this country.
People of color will find a way to get through, will find a way to reconcile the casualness with which many of their white friends and colleagues ignored an open bigotry and maintain the love and respect they've had for those people. They always do. They have decades of practice in a country that is sometimes threatened by their skin color, other times by their burgeoning success.
But don't expect them to just grin and bear it this time. That anger can't simply be wiped away by a new, softer tone from the President-elect. And it will not dissipate because Obama is reminding his supporters, like he did in his first post-election news conference Monday, that in a democracy things don't always go our way and that we must make the transition of power as smooth as possible, no matter who we voted for or against.
The struggling white Americans who chose Trump have neither faced struggle as deep nor as long as people of color, yet their personal struggles are pointed to as an excuse for voting for a man either because of or despite his bigotry.
When will people of color get a similar pass for where their anger might lead them?