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It’s a national story. Last month, a group of 11 women (10 of whom are black) were escorted off the Napa Valley Wine Train, allegedly for loud and obnoxious behavior that elicited complaints from other passengers. Today, they are suing the Wine Train for $11 million alleging discrimination.
The women were members of a book club who saw were simply having a good time. Been there; done that!
Apparently, on more than one occasion, Wine Train staff asked the women to tone it down but their response, as reported in the Napa Valley Register was, “we thought the purpose of the Wine Train was to have a good time and enjoy being with a large group.”
Club member Lisa Johnson continued: “No one told us of any noise ordinance. If you get a group of 11 women talking and laughing, it’s going to be loud. One passenger nearby said, ‘Well, this is not a bar.’ We reacted, ‘Yes, it is a bar, a bar on wheels.'”
Let’s stipulate that my guess is I’m more experienced than these women in being asked to leave the premises of various establishments due to excessive, obnoxious behavior. And I’m neither black, nor a woman.
During my misspent youth, I ran with a loud, obnoxious crowd. Fueled by alcohol, we partied hearty, and often drank too much and laughed too loud. We thought we were funny. Others didn’t. In the eyes of other patrons in the establishments we invaded, we were obnoxious boors — and they were right.
But like the women on the train, we meant no harm. We were simply oblivious to the discomfort we were causing others. When old friends get together, be they footballers, rugby players, Cal alumni, colleagues from work, or members of a cherished book club, when alcohol is involved and camaraderie de rigueur, the decibel level tends to rise.
And the offenders (like moi) are generally oblivious to their boorish behavior.
As a creative director in advertising in the 1970s (think “Mad Men” but with more sex, drugs, and drinking) we were asked to leave elegant restaurants and dive bars as well. I remember ex-“Tonight Show” gag writer Ed Heistand telling the maître d’ at the posh Bel Air Bar and Grill in Beverly Hills, “We’ve been thrown out of better joints than this.”
Shooting commercials in Los Angeles meant lots of early morning calls after late-night revelry. The late comedian Bob Ridgley would entertain us for hours with loud ad-libbed obscene songs, mocking the sugary musicals of the ’50s. Not something one would want to hear while sipping a bottle of Harlan Estate at the next table.
Standing up and singing the Cal drinking song in crowded restaurants was hardly a crowdpleaser — to others. For six years in a row, a group of us traveled to Super Bowls, and four times out of the six we were visited by police. Two officers, probably hotel security, left us alone after a former Green Bay linebacker answered the door and told them he would take their guns and put them where the sun don’t shine, before he slammed it in their face.
Was that me hiding in a “false ceiling” as police raided Johnny Walker’s bar during a noisy bachelor party in Dallas? Don’t tell the kids.
Our Croix de Guerre was when the Beverly Hills Hotel told us that Bungalow No. 9 had the dubious distinction of receiving more complaints than any room in the history of the hotel. (And to think, burning the dresser drawers in the fireplace seemed like such a good idea at the time.) Booze, even on the Wine Train, tends to cloud one’s perspective.
I might also add, that despite my dubious record, that when I am dining with family or friends and some bachelorette party or frat boy group is rowdy and out of order, I am the first one to either confront them or ask the maître d’ to do so.
The Wine Train is in the business of catering to paying customers, and they are trained not to offend. Remember, they throw at least a party a month off that “bar on wheels” and not many are black. Rudeness (however unintentional) was involved here — not racism. Ms. Johnson said it herself: “If you get a group of 11 women talking and laughing, it’s going to be loud.”
Who is racist is all the bloggers and commentators who accused the Wine Train of inappropriate behavior. These women are black, so they should not held to the same standards as others when out in public? How patronizing, how condescending, and how abjectly racist is that attitude? Are these commentators implying that because these woman are black, they don’t know any better? Now that’s racist!
As to the fact that one woman was 85 years old, my only comment is, “You go, girl.”
At 67, should the good Lord grant me an additional 18 years on this earth so I can match that gal, and I find myself being escorted out by a group of policemen for being drunk and rowdy, I promise I will go to confession the next day. When my priest asks why I’m telling him, I’ll respond (with the old joke), “Telling you? I’m telling everybody!”Published in