social media, true crime

Two guys walk into a bar…

I may catch some shit for writing today’s post, but this story is a good example as to why I think that sometimes the court of public opinion gets things very wrong. If you’re a regular reader, you may already know that I am not a fan of mob justice, particularly for people who armchair quarterback from home and have nothing to do with a specific case. I think that can have a devastating effect on justice and fairness, something that everyone should be entitled to, especially in the United States. Anyway, here goes… putting on my flame retardant suit now.

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, 65 year old Donald Lewinski and 80 year old Rocco Sapienza were both visiting Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill in West Seneca, New York. Both men were said to be regulars at the establishment, although it’s not clear if they knew each other before their deadly meeting a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. Lewinski is now being charged with the negligent homicide of Mr. Sapienza. Why? Because Mr. Sapienza, who was said to be very friendly, but not one who was afraid to confront people he thought needed calling out, chastised Mr. Lewinski for not wearing a face mask. The headline about this incident in The New York Times is “80-Year-Old Is Killed After Asking Bar Patron to Wear Mask”. Naturally, people are responding to that headline with much vitriol toward Mr. Lewinski. Some are labeling him a cold blooded murderer and calling for him to spend much longer in prison than the four years he could face if he is convicted.

The headline implies that Mr. Sapienza simply asked Mr. Lewinksi to wear a mask, and he responded by viciously shoving him, intending to hurt, or even kill him. I was skeptical that this incident went down the way the headline implied. And, in fairness to the The New York Times, the actual article, which I am sure a lot of people didn’t bother to read, is a lot more impartial than the headline is. There are also other articles from reputable, but more local, sources available that present a very different perspective than what was reported in The New York Times. Having read several articles about this altercation, I have concluded that this is what really happened.

These two guys visited their favorite watering hole. Both are older men, probably a bit set in their ways and not interested in hearing other people’s opinions on how they should be behaving in public.

Mr. Lewinski’s son was playing music outside of the bar. The band was set up in the parking lot, and they happened to be playing in the parking spot that Mr. Sapienza usually used. This tidbit of information was not in the Times’ article, but it was in an article by Local 12, a news station in the West Seneca area. So… Mr. Sapienza was already annoyed that his parking spot was usurped by Lewinski’s son’s band. It’s unclear whether or not the band knew that was Sapienza’s parking spot, or if he was somehow officially entitled to park there.

The New York Times article also fails to mention that Mr. Lewinski did have a neck gaiter and though he did frequently forget to pull it up, perhaps because he was drinking or “caught up in the thrill”, according to his lawyer, Barry Covert, “when asked to put his mask on, [he] did so readily.”

Apparently, Lewinski kept coming in and out of the bar to fetch rounds of drinks. When he came into the bar, he repeatedly forgot to pull the gaiter up over his nose and mouth. Also according to Lewinski’s lawyer, “[Sapienza] was disgruntled that he could hear the music inside, and he was unhappy that my client and other people were bringing tables and chairs from inside the bar outside to the patrons who were enjoying the band out in the parking lot.”

Mr. Sapienza, who had reportedly served in the Marine Corps and had a “boisterous” personality that would “fill up a room”, eventually decided that enough was enough. Sapienza was also said to be “protective” of the staff at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill and was well-liked at the establishment. I have a feeling that Sapienza might have thought of the bar as “his place” and it probably irritated him that Lewinski and his son’s band were upsetting the order of things.

According to video footage, Lewinski was speaking to the bar owner for a moment and Sapienza, donning a face mask, decided to take it upon himself to confront Mr. Lewinski about his failure to be diligent about wearing a mask. There was no audio to the video, but John J. Flynn, the Erie County district attorney, says that “out of the blue”, Mr. Lewinski two hand shoved Mr. Sapienza, who fell backwards. His left arm knocked over a bar stool as his head hit the floor. Sapienza immediately lost consciousness and suffered a seizure. He was taken to a hospital, where he underwent brain surgery and died several days later.

Lewinski, who supposedly had made “lewd” comments to the staff, immediately paid his bill and left right after Sapienza hit the floor. I can’t say I blame him for that, but maybe that was also the wrong thing to do.

In my opinion, this incident sounds like a terrible accident. It’s certainly not murder, although many outraged comments indicate that it is. I don’t believe that Donald Lewinski showed up at that bar intending to kill someone. He probably just wanted to have a good time, listen to his son play music and enjoy some adult beverages.

If Lewinski had tackled Mr. Sapienza and repeatedly beat him about the head and shoulders in a clear effort to kill him, that would be murder. There has to be deliberate intent to kill for a killing to be called murder. It sounds to me like Lewinski pushed the man to get him out of his face, and that was it. He clearly didn’t intend to kill him. Mr. Sapienza’s accident was simply the unfortunate result of their confrontation, which Sapienza initiated. I don’t think Lewinski needs to be put away for the rest of his life for that. Some people would even call what he did self-defense, although I’m not sure the situation called for self-defense. But again– they were in a bar and there were likely distorted perceptions at play caused by boozing.

Could Lewinski have been better about wearing a face mask? Sure. But consider that less than a year ago, no one was wearing masks in bars or socially distancing. Some people are having a harder time adjusting to this new requirement than others are. And while I’m not absolutely certain that the parties involved in this incident were drinking alcohol, I’m going to assume that they were. They were there for “hours”, and there’s no telling how much they drank before the altercation occurred. In fact, I would also wonder if alcohol could have had an effect on Mr. Sapienza’s body that exacerbated the effects of the blunt trauma to his head.

What really irritates me about this story is that many people who are commenting on it automatically attack Donald Lewinski’s character and call him a “murderer”. It’s akin to the people who call anyone not wearing a face mask a “murderer”. It’s ridiculous hyperbole and it doesn’t serve justice.

For the record, I agree that Lewinski was absolutely wrong to shove Mr. Sapienza, although I also think that Sapienza was wrong to confront Lewinski. It was not his place to enforce the mask requirement; it was the management’s duty.

Moreover, the fact that Mr. Sapienza was 80 years old is irrelevant. I don’t know how recent the photos of Sapienza are, but he doesn’t appear to be that old. In some pictures I’ve seen, he’s wearing a dapper looking suit and a big smile– yes, he looks like a very friendly, healthy, fun loving man. I would not have guessed Sapienza was 80, and I’m sure his age never occurred to Mr. Lewinski, either. It sounds to me like he acted impulsively– he’d been drinking and was already irritated with Sapienza, as the two had exchanged “terse words” prior to the shoving incident. It’s not unusual for people to react physically when someone invades their personal space, especially when there’s booze involved.

A screen grab from a news video about this incident. He looks pretty hale and hearty to me, but I don’t know how old this picture is. To read the comments on some of the news articles about this, Mr. Sapienza was a frail , little old man. I don’t think that’s necessarily so. He does look like a great guy, though. It’s sad that he died the way he did.

Obviously, both of these men were healthy enough to sit in a bar for hours, despite their “advanced ages”. But in the age of COVID-19, it’s probably not the best idea for anyone to be hanging out in a bar, especially men over the age of 50 who might have underlying health conditions. Alcohol is a social lubricant. It causes people to behave in ways they might not have otherwise and can distort a person’s perceptions of reality. Or, it causes them to magnify behaviors, which may or may not be good.

If you’re an asshole naturally, and you drink booze, you’re probably going to be an even bigger asshole when you’re drunk. Believe me, I have seen and experienced it many times. I don’t know what kind of man Donald Lewinski is, but if he was drinking, it’s possible that his frame of mind might have been in the realm of asshole on September 26th. Or, maybe he just doesn’t know his own strength.

If you’re a senior citizen and you’re concerned enough about COVID-19 that you feel compelled to confront strangers about wearing face masks, it’s probably a wiser decision to stay home. I am sure that hanging out in his favorite watering hole was a comfort for Mr. Sapienza. Maybe it helped him feel more normal in these very weird pandemic days we’re experiencing. And maybe he felt emboldened to confront another man for not wearing a face mask, because that bar felt like “his place”. But, when it comes down to it, not everyone is going to see it that way. People are on edge and pissed off– tensions are high for a lot of reasons. It’s probably not the best idea to confront people who are breaking the rules, especially in a bar. Let someone in charge do it, for your own safety. Especially if you are “at an elevated risk” for COVID-19, as Mr. Sapienza would be simply due to his age and sex. But then, maybe Mr. Sapienza was also under the influence of booze and his natural instincts were similarly magnified.

I totally get that people are fed up with those who break the rules. I also get that people resent having to wear face masks. I hate them myself, but I do wear them when they are required. And because I hate the masks, I do my best to avoid having to wear them by staying away from other people. Instead of going to bars, I stay home and drink. It’s cheaper that way, and I get to pick the music. Bars are not safe places for those hoping to avoid COVID-19. I certainly don’t condone Lewinski’s decision to push Mr. Sapienza, inadvertently causing his death, but I also don’t condone Mr. Sapienza’s decision to put himself in harm’s way by being confrontational.

It’s too bad that the press is spinning this situation to be something it’s not. People are predictably reacting without reading much more than the headline or thinking critically. So many folks are commenting that Lewinski should go to prison for the rest of his life… calling him a hardened murderer because he shoved some guy for confronting him after they had already exchanged “terse words”. I wonder if they would feel the same way if they or someone they loved were involved in a similar situation. My guess is that most of them wouldn’t. But then, it’s always “a different story” when the story is about someone else.

Edited to add, as of December 2022, the criminal charges against Mr. Lewinski were dropped. However, it’s possible that a wrongful death suit may be filed, and there may be an appeal of the verdict.

condescending twatbags, rants

Pandemic shaming… it’s gotten out of hand.

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of people lecturing others about what they should or should not be doing. I suppose it’s only natural, since so many of us are at home, bored out of our skulls. Yesterday, I noticed several of my friends posting yet more pleas to others to make sure they follow all the pandemic rules. I get why some of them are doing it. COVID-19 is very scary. People are getting very sick and sometimes dying, and being stuck at home SUCKS. We all want life to get back to normal, and posting a clever pandemic themed meme or a heartfelt Facebook post makes it feel like we’re doing something constructive.

However, when every other friend is posting about the importance of social distancing and wearing face masks, social media quickly becomes a source of frustration and irritation. Frankly, a lot of the information being shared by well-meaning people isn’t entirely accurate. I’ve started to hide posts and unfollow the worst offenders, because mainly, I don’t need the extra stress or aggravation. I am capable of reading up on what the experts say I should be doing. So are you. It’s gotten to the point at which I’m starting to view pandemic shamers as being akin to Trump supporters.

Last night, I found an interesting op-ed on The New York Times entitled “The Seductive Appeal of Pandemic Shaming”. I mostly agreed with what the author, Jennifer Weiner, wrote. The only thing I didn’t like was that she decided to use the trendy pejorative “Karen” to describe angsty, middle-aged, white women who seem to be the worst “pandemic shaming” offenders right now. As regular readers might remember, I kind of hate the recent trend of co-opting perfectly good names like Karen, Becky, Chad, and Susan to put other people down. However, overall, I liked Weiner’s message to the masses. She writes:

...posting pictures of non-compliers on social media, or calling them out to their faces, is unlikely to help. It might even make things worse. And it comes with risks to groups who are already suffering more than most from the virus and its effects.

She continues with a quote from Damon Young, author of “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker,” who has seen a lot of people calling other people out for not following the rules.

I understand the compulsion” to call people out, Young said. “But is it really helping? If what you’re doing is supposed to be about saving lives, is this actually doing it?”

Frankly, I don’t think it does help very much. What it mostly seems to do is piss people off and make the situation worse. I was reading the Duggar Family News group this morning and someone posted about how Jill Duggar Dillard posted on Instagram about how she and her husband, Derick, went to visit Derick’s family. As Duggar followers know, Jill and Derick, like most of the rest of the Duggar family, live in Arkansas. According to group members in the know, Arkansas has not enacted a “stay at home” order, nor is wearing face masks in public currently a requirement there.

Jill and Derick went to see his mother and stepfather and did not wear masks or practice “social distancing”. Derick’s mother, Cathy, has some significant health issues, which were documented on the Duggar family’s reality shows before Jill and Derick fell out with The Learning Channel and Jim Bob Duggar. Lots of posters were going off about how *wrong* and irresponsible it is that Jill and Derick didn’t wear masks and gloves… or that they visited his family in the first place. As I read shaming response after more outraged and shaming response, I was suddenly reminded of an angry hive… a somewhat timely image, as I read about the murderous hornets that are now in the news. And then I took note of this exchange:

Notice the overall tone of these posts. It’s kind of aggressive. The hand-wringing face mask crusaders are doing their best to shame the holdout into seeing their view. But are they changing her mind? Not really. As you can see, she gets more and more hostile. I doubt she’ll be donning a face mask due to these people– perfect strangers who don’t know or care about her– piling on her on social media. And I’ll bet there were a lot of people reading who silently agreed with the original poster. Most adults like to think of themselves as able to take care of themselves without “special help”, especially in the United States– “land of the free”.

After I read this post, I thought of another quote from Weiner’s op-ed, which came from Syon Bhanot, a behavioral economist who teaches at Swarthmore. Does calling people out online for their “misbehavior” actually make the situation better? Does it save lives? Bhanot says that when you point out misbehavior online,

“you’re not confronting it — you’re virtue-signaling.” And confronting wrongdoers in person “is not going to be motivationally effective,” he added. “Shaming creates defensiveness. It doesn’t persuade, it entrenches.”

Makes perfect sense to me, especially when you look at the exchange I read in the Duggar Family News group. Neither side was backing down. The conflict was getting worse. The mood was getting uglier. And I wondered if that made things better in the already difficult situation we’re all having to weather right now. Bhanot says that instead of personally calling out “wrongdoers”, it’s better to appeal to the authorities and ask them to handle it on an organizational level. I would also add that sometimes there’s something going on that you don’t know about and is none of your business. One astute German in a local Facebook group posted that someone you see in public who is not wearing a mask might have a medical problem that makes mask wearing difficult or impossible. I think it’s better to just give those people a wide berth rather than berating them.

I was still thinking about the subject of pandemic shaming last night, so I did more Googling and found an article on The Guardian by Poppy Noor about shaming that is going on in the United Kingdom. Noor writes that a few weeks ago, journalist Amelia Gentleman tweeted a photo of an apartment building where someone had posted huge posters shaming a neighbor for not socially distancing. The disgruntled neighbor was perturbed because “Ann” had been having people over and when she was asked to stop having company, refused to comply. So Ann’s neighbor decided to publicly shame her with the posters… which anyone passing could see, but as you can now see, has been picked up by the news.

Noor writes that most social distance and face mask shamers are simply trying to do the right thing. They see someone out and about with no mask on and feel the need to call them out, reminding them that they could be spreading the virus. But what if that person is a nurse or a grocery store clerk on the way to work? What if it’s someone making sure an elderly family member is getting food or medication? What if the person not wearing the mask has severe lung disease or anxiety and can’t wear the mask without panicking? And why is it any of your fucking business? Especially since, if you’re seeing these folks out and about, you’re probably out and about yourself. No one needs to be reminded about the coronavirus right now, anyway. I was actually kind of happy to read about the killer hornets yesterday, because it was a diversion from the 24-7 chatter about the virus… and Donald Trump’s moronic handling of the situation.

Personally, I haven’t had much of a problem staying holed up in the house. I seem to have a low need for socializing with people other than Bill and our dog, Arran. Not everyone is like me, though, and some people are starting to go a little crazy, especially as the weather improves. Some people want to go sit on the beach or play basketball because it’s good for their mental health. Mental health is also important. Without it, people become hopeless and despondent. They start drinking too much booze and entertaining thoughts of suicide. So I’m inclined to give people a break… and a wide berth when I see them outside with or without a mask. As Noor points out,

Take the case of a friend’s mother, who was recently reported to the police for making too many trips outside. She, in fact, was dropping off supplies to people who were sick and in isolation. Now she might feel less inclined to do so – but who cares, so long as whoever dobbed her in gets to post on social media about it?

Too much of that kind of thing will also cause people to be paranoid. I read another account of a couple in Australia who were fined because they were reported for posting pictures of themselves doing “non-essential” travel. But then it turned out that the photos were taken months before the coronavirus struck. From the article:

The husband and wife were fined the equivalent of $1,000 each by state police for “going for a drive to Lakes Entrance,” which was deemed a violation of the country’s strict lockdown.

The couple was warned that if they “posted any more photos,” they would “be arrested,”

The cops revoked the fine once it became clear that the pictures were a year old, although the wife had to contact the media to get the police to drop the citation. But that led people to wonder if the police were Facebook stalking the populace, looking for people to nab. Who turned them in to the authorities, anyway? That is a rather uncomfortable thing, isn’t it? Might make one not want to do much posting on social media or sharing of photos if it means the cops will show up on your doorstep with a citation, especially when they don’t have all the facts. It’s creepy as hell, too.

The police should have more important things to do than investigate this kind of thing. It’s a pretty shitty thing to do to someone during these stressful times, particularly if you don’t have all the facts. If someone is genuinely breaking the rules and actually causing trouble for you, that’s one thing– it’s appropriate to call the police in that case. But snitching on people who aren’t personally affecting you or calling them out based on erroneous assumptions is ugly behavior that causes more problems than it solves.

I did have one friend who wrote that she was upset about some things she’d been seeing. Even here in Germany, some folks are protesting. They aren’t bringing massive weapons like they do in the United States, but they are coming out en masse to complain about the measures enacted to slow the spread of the virus. Also, some people are defiantly throwing parties. I don’t have a problem with calling the authorities when something like that is happening that affects someone personally. But the group shaming, online nannying and nagging, and bold confrontations of strangers is counterproductive. Most people don’t react well when they’re shamed and policed by ordinary citizens, especially when the shamers are total strangers on the Internet. All it does is make them defensive and defiant.

So, at the risk of sounding preachy myself, knock it off, please. Live your life and do your part to stay healthy. Hopefully, your neighbors and the strangers on the Internet will do the same.

condescending twatbags

Adopting a child is not like rescuing a puppy…

Four years ago, on the original Overeducated Housewife blog, I wrote a rant about people who were upset about the advancement of uterine transplants. In that post from March 2016, I wrote the story of a 26 year old woman named Lindsey who had always longed to experience pregnancy with a baby of her own. But Lindsey had known since she was a teenager that it was not meant to be, because she was born without a uterus.

In February 2016, Lindsey underwent an experimental operation at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida. She was one of the first women in the world to have a cadaver’s uterus surgically implanted into her body, and was the very first woman in the United States to have the procedure done. Doctors had hoped she would be able to try to get pregnant two years after the surgery. Unfortunately, Lindsey’s uterine transplant quickly failed, and by the next month, she was undergoing another surgery to remove the transplanted uterus.

I read about Lindsey’s case in The New York Times, and then read some of the comments. To me, transplant medicine is fascinating and amazing. And yet, plenty of people were posting awful comments about Lindsey and how “selfish” she was for wanting to have a baby of her own instead of adopting one. Even when it came to light that Lindsey already has THREE adopted sons, many people were quick to criticize her, wondering why those three boys “weren’t enough” for her and speculating that they would feel “bad” because their mother wanted to experience pregnancy. I was pretty agitated by the stupidity of the comments about Lindsey’s case, so I wrote a rant. I will repost my first rant about this subject, since it’s relevant to today’s follow up rant.

Yesterday, I read the exciting news that another uterine transplant patient in the United States has successfully given birth at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The child, son of 33 year old Jennifer Gobrecht and her husband, Drew, is the second baby born in the United States after a successful uterine transplant. Jennifer Gobrecht, who was born with a congenital condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, had believed she would never be able to experience pregnancy, since she was born with ovaries, but no uterus. Thanks to the dedication of skilled researchers, surgeons, and nurses, and her own bravery and willingness to be part of an experimental medical procedure, she’s received her miracle in the form of her baby boy, Benjamin. And yet… people are criticizing her.

I read comment after comment about this story on The New York Times’ Facebook page. So many people asked why she didn’t simply adopt a child. After I read an especially snarky comment from a woman who wondered why the Gobrechts didn’t simply adopt, I asked “How many children have you adopted?”

The commenter wrote a rude response indicating that she had never wanted children and didn’t see how my question was relevant. But a whole lot of women– probably women like me, who for whatever reason, have faced infertility themselves– liked my comment and totally saw where I was going with it. The commenter wondered why I would ask her how many children she’d adopted, implying that it was irrelevant and none of my business (which it isn’t). And yet, she wondered why Ms. Gobrecht and her husband chose to make the family planning choices they had! I guess it was lost on her that the Gobrechts’ decision to go ahead with the experimental uterine transplant was none of her business, either.

The commenter then wrote that Ms. Gobrecht’s decision to give birth to her own baby was essentially the same as adopting someone else’s baby. I guess she missed the part in the article in which it was explained that Ms. Gobrecht possesses ovaries, which means she has her own eggs. She was lacking a uterus, which is simply where the fetus develops and has no bearing on its genetics. So no, it’s not the same as adoption, because this baby shares DNA with his mother. And even if it was a case of a woman who got pregnant using donated eggs, it would still not be the same as adoption. For instance, there would be no risk of a birth mother deciding at the last minute that she wanted to keep the baby, a heartbreaking situation that many prospective adoptive parents face. And she would be able to experience the joy of seeing ultrasounds and feeling the baby’s kicks. Of course, she’d also experience the less pleasant aspects of pregnancy, but if that’s what she wants to do, more power to her. Who is anyone else to question her choice, if it’s available and legal?

Another commenter posted to my query that she’d adopted one child– then wrote “thanks”, as if she’d burned me good by proving that she’d put her money where her mouth is. To that commenter, I would (and did) say something along the lines of… “Good for you that you adopted a child! Here’s a cookie. But that doesn’t make your opinions about other people’s family planning decisions any more relevant.”

I think it’s awesome that some people want to adopt. It was never anything I was interested in doing myself, although I would have liked to have had a baby with Bill. As I have mentioned many times before, but will repeat for the new folks, my husband was talked into having a vasectomy when he was married to his ex wife. He has two grown daughters who, until very recently, were completely estranged from him. One of his daughters reconnected about three years ago, and Bill now Skypes with her and has gotten to see his two grandchildren via the miracles of modern technology. Because he loves me, and wanted me to have a chance to experience pregnancy, he underwent a vasectomy reversal. It was technically successful, although the procedure and recovery were definitely much more complicated than the initial “snip”. He was fortunate enough to have that procedure done free of charge, thanks to the Army and its doctors who need to maintain their skills. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I never got pregnant. Ex, on the other hand, went on to have two more children with her third husband.

Back then, we didn’t have the money to pursue other methods of infertility treatment, so we eventually let go of the dream. At this point, I’m fine with that decision. I was ecstatic that my husband would even consider undergoing an invasive elective surgery on the most private part of his body so that I might be a mother. It felt to both of us like he was taking back a bad decision. In the end, that was enough for us, although we would have loved to have had a baby of our own.

Many women yearn to be mothers. Some of them are fine with adoption if they can’t get pregnant. Even people who can have their own babies may want to adopt, for whatever reason. It’s simply something they feel “led” to do. Then there are some people, like me, would rather not adopt. They have their reasons for feeling the way they do. Maybe you think their reasons are invalid, selfish, or even stupid, but your opinion doesn’t count when it comes to someone else’s family planning choices.

Adopting a child isn’t like picking out a puppy on a dog rescue Web site. You can’t just trot down to the local orphanage and pick one up after proving that your landlord approves and you have a pediatrician lined up. Adoption usually costs money and involves having other people check you out thoroughly– everything from home visits to financial inquiries. It can take time, too– sometimes years, even, although there are children in foster care who can be adopted with less hassle.

I’m quite sure most people would be offended if some stranger demanded to know why they chose to have children of their own instead of adopting. If you wouldn’t ask a fertile person that question, how could you dare ask that of someone who has struggled with infertility? It really is an insensitive and obnoxiously inquisitive question that is likely to put you in potentially awkward social situation.

Besides, while many people have been adopted and everything has worked out beautifully, sometimes adoptions can lead to heartbreak and misery. I won’t get into that now, since I have at least one more point to make before I close this post. Suffice to say, adoption has its pitfalls. It’s not for everyone. While I would never discourage anyone from choosing adoption, it’s a decision that needs to be carefully considered by people who are prepared.

The uterine transplant procedure is not even very likely to prevent most people who would otherwise consider adoption from adopting a child. It is simply one more tool in the arsenal against infertility. It will help the small cohort of women who, for whatever reason, lack a uterus. In other words, it’s not a huge crowd of people who would opt for a major, risky, invasive and expensive surgery in order to become a parent. It’s doubtful medical insurance will ever pay for the procedure, at least not in my lifetime, so the vast majority of people who might be candidates will probably not be able to afford it, anyway. I think the pro-adoption crowd can relax their sphincters now.

The final point I want to make is that I think uterine transplants are a good thing, not just because they give people like Lindsey and Jennifer Gobrecht the opportunity to experience pregnancy and give birth to their own babies, but because exploring any groundbreaking transplant procedure furthers the development of transplant medicine as a whole. You can bet that uterine transplants are being done right now because hearts, lungs, kidneys, corneas, and livers have been successfully transplanted. Now that uterine transplants are a thing, other parts of the body might follow. And with every new advancement and innovation in medical research, mankind is helped to understand the human body more.

Aside from that, uterine transplants have been done successfully in other countries, such as Brazil and Sweden. If the United States wants to be on the cutting edge of medical research, American medical researchers have to keep pushing into new frontiers. To do that successfully, people like Jennifer Gobrecht have to be willing to be part of the exploration. I, for one, am delighted that she was brave enough to come forward and was ultimately rewarded with a beautiful son named Benjamin. It really is a miracle. People should be applauding her for being a part of medical history instead of lecturing her about the wonders of adoption.

condescending twatbags

Waiters who “know what’s best for you”…

Twenty years ago, I waited tables. It never occurred to me, at least back in those days, that I should do anything more than take my patrons’ orders and deliver their food to them. I even remember serving a glass of champagne to a visibly pregnant guest. The reason I remember it was because her companion had asked for strawberries to go with the champagne and our kitchen didn’t have any whole ones. I got punished by the guests for that, but I still served the alcohol. Things must have changed since the late 1990s. I keep reading stories about meddlesome restaurant servers who think they know better than their guests do.

Several years ago, I read a news story about 28 year old mom Tasha Adams, of Toad Suck, Arkansas. Toad Suck is a “dry town”, which means that you can’t buy alcohol there. Adams and her friends had gone to Gusano’s, a restaurant in Conway, Arkansas, where alcohol is not banned. They had just been to a funeral and were having dinner. Adams had her eight month old baby, Ana, with her and was drinking alcohol. She was also breastfeeding Ana.

Jackie Conners, an off duty waitress, decided that it wasn’t right for Tasha Adams to drink while breastfeeding. She claimed the party was “having a good time, drinking” and ignoring the baby, whom she said was fussing. Conners spoke to the manager about the party, but the manager decided not to cut them off. So Conners called the police, who showed up and arrested Adams for “drinking while breastfeeding”. Adams stated that she didn’t know that was illegal. It turns out, in fact, Arkansas law did not forbid drinking while breastfeeding. The charges against Adams were dropped and Conners was fired from her job. Still, Adams and her baby had to go through an ordeal before the matter was settled. I’m sure it was distressing and humiliating.

I was interested in this case because I find it disturbing on many levels, watching random strangers getting involved in the personal choices pregnant or nursing women make for themselves. Indeed, even if someone just thinks you might be pregnant, they might make a comment or even call the authorities if you do something they think might harm a developing fetus. When the police come, they could end up arresting someone. In Tasha Adams’ case, the cops weren’t sure if what she was doing was illegal, so they made a judgment call and ran her in, anyway. Adams likely can’t forget the experience of being arrested simply for enjoying adult beverages with her friends. She had no idea what she was doing was wrong and, in fact, it wasn’t wrong in the eyes of the law.

It’s chilling what can happen when someone makes a judgment based on incomplete information. I wrote a comprehensive article on my old blog about this case from 2014. Things haven’t changed in five years. In fact, it seems like they’ve gotten worse.

In fact, I just read another story about a waiter who made an “executive decision” on behalf of a woman he or she simply believed might be pregnant. The tale, which originally appeared on Reddit, was from someone who has been waiting tables for three years. A party of four women sat at the server’s table. They were “a pleasure” to serve, and started off with a round of cocktails, then perused the menu. The server, whose gender identity is never clear, overheard one of the women mention that she was “14 weeks along”. He or she got the impression that the guest was pregnant, based on what her or she had overheard and observed.

The server figured one drink was “no big deal”, and went about his or her business. But then the group ordered another round, which caused the server some concern. The waiter went to the bartender and asked him to make one of the cocktails a virgin. When the bartender questioned the server, the server just asked him to “trust him or her”. The party had several cocktails and got “rowdy”, including the supposedly pregnant woman. The server figured the woman didn’t notice that she’d been drinking virgin cocktails all night. Obviously, he or she thought they were going to get away with their deception.

But then the women asked for separate checks. The bartender had identified the cocktails for the “pregnant woman” as virgins, since he had to account for the alcohol, and it was too late for the waiter to edit the receipts. The “pregnant” woman and her party left, but then they looked at their receipts and noticed the word “virgin” on hers. The supposedly pregnant woman came back into the restaurant and asked what “virgin” meant, and the waiter explained that virgin means “non-alcoholic”. The guest asked the waiter if she had ordered non-alcoholic cocktails, and the waiter said he or she figured that’s what she’d want, since she was pregnant. Naturally, the guest was wicked pissed. She demanded that her part of the tip be returned. Then she spoke to the manager, who then yelled at the server.

The server said they didn’t want to be responsible for causing fetal alcohol syndrome. The restaurant manager said that the server had made them liable for discrimination charges and that they could get into serious trouble.

Once again, for those who came in late or are sitting in the back…

While servers certainly can and should cut people off when they get noticeably hammered, it’s not their place to make executive decisions for other people’s orders, particularly without their consent. Moreover, someone who is at a real risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome is not going to be deterred by a well-meaning but intrusive server. Someone who is pregnant and doesn’t care about what they will look like drinking alcohol in public will certainly drink at home. Aside from that, the customer apparently never verified that she was pregnant. It’s possible that the server misunderstood the situation. He or she was not a party to the conversation that was overheard and it’s very likely the information received was totally out of context.

I understand moral dilemmas regarding serving alcohol to the pregnant people among us, especially in the United States. In the United States, healthcare professionals do not recommend drinking alcohol while pregnant. However, the booze free pregnancy mantra is not necessarily practiced worldwide. Interestingly enough, in some areas, it’s not drinking booze that is frowned upon for pregnant women.

When Bill and I visited France a few years ago, a waiter thought I might be pregnant and was concerned because I’d ordered beef. He had nothing to say about the red wine I was drinking. Needless to say, I was really pissed off that he had questioned my order based on an assumption he made due to my appearance. Yes, I do have a gut, but it’s caused by beer, not baby. And no, you don’t need to ask me about it. If I want to eat beef or drink wine, it’s entirely my business… but I did take heart in knowing that at least I still looked young enough to conceive. I probably don’t anymore, since I let my hair go natural.

Most pregnant people are adults with the same rights every other adult has. They can make their own decisions without input from non-involved people who don’t know the situation. It’s not for another person to preemptively decide for another person what is best for them. It usually doesn’t happen to people who aren’t pregnant, but for some reason, society seems to deem pregnant women as needing special help and “parental guidance”.

Personally, I think the waiter in this story should have been fired immediately. I also think people need to mind their own business when it comes to situations like these, unless there is an obvious need to intervene. I hope the customer got a full refund for those mocktails, since they were not what she ordered. Also… I am really glad I have retired from waiting tables so I don’t have to deal with these situations.