(EDGE) A hard-working single mother in Fort Wayne, Indiana felt the economic consequences of thoughtless homophobia when two men at one of the tables she was serving at her waitressing job refused to leave her a tip. But hitting her in the pocketbook wasn't enough for the men; one of them scrawled a hateful message on the receipt, a message that included an anti-gay epithet.
The waitress, 33-year-old Michele Crider, took to Facebook on Feb. 19 to share her story in an emotional video — and as more and more people heard about the way she'd been mistreated, Crider began to feel the love, reports local ABC affiliate WPTA.
Crider's Facebook video starts out talking about how she loves her job at the Dash-In and how her shift that day had been largely enjoyable. But the story soon takes on darker overtones.
"Toward the end I got this table with two guys, and I told my boss Laura, I said... 'They're just not that nice.' "
That, as it turned out, was an understatement. After the men paid and left, Crider picked up the receipt from their table, "and to my surprise, he wrote..." Crider holds up the receipt left by the man. " 'I don't tip fags.' "
The words can clearly be seen scrawled in a corner of the receipt.
Crider gathers herself and then gives her measured response.
"Okay, now, I am all about people being entitled to their own opinions. That's one thing that's beautiful, is that there's such a diversity of people... And I would like to say it's okay — but it's not okay."
Crider decries the loss of civility in America in recent years. She then points out the economic effects on her of the man's refusal to tip. "Are you aware that I just paid for you to eat? I'm sure that that doesn't cross your mind. When you look at me all you see is a 'fag.' "
Crider then schools bigots as to the wider truths of what it means to deny LGBTQs of the means to support themselves.
"I'm a lot more than that. I'm a mother. I work my butt off, sir, to pay my bills. To put my son into a good school, and pay that tuition. I work my butt off to be able to do things like that."
Crider continues to direct her remarks to the man who left the offensive message, going on to say, "I need you to understand that you did not ruin my day by doing this." Crider pulls a vase of flowers into the frame to show them off. "Look at this. Right away, my work family got me flowers. And you want to know something that's even better? Look at this." Crider holds up a note that reads, "We all love you — The Dash Fam."
The owner of the eatery, Emily Underwood, backed up those word with action.
Underwood was able to pick the man out on security video, WPTA reported. He will no longer be welcome at Dash-In.
WPTA noted that Crider received support not only from her work colleagues but also restaurant customers and complete strangers who saw her video or otherwise heard about the appalling manner in which she was treated.
"Today we have been getting lots and lots of phone calls," Underwood said. "People dropping off gifts, dropping off money, wanting to give Michele the tips she deserves, and just people wanting to show their support."
Crider shared with the news station that she's received far more in the way of supportive messages than the malicious one the customer in question left her.
"I started receiving messages from people," she said, "and they're just saying, 'You're so inspirational. I love that you turned a negative into a positive."
Restaurant receipts have become their own mini-battlefield in America's ongoing culture wars, with stories becoming more common of customers leaving LGBTQ wait staff, or those perceived to be LGBTQ, hateful messages and refusing to tip them. In other instances, employees of dining establishments are the ones to hurl insults and behave in disrespectful ways. As reported here at EDGE, two gay cousins recently encountered anti-gay bias at a Little Caesar's Pizza in Henrico County, Virginia, when a cashier there entered the word "Gay" onto their receipt in place of the usual customer's name.
The cashier was later fired and the company issued a statement calling the cousins' treatment "a highly unusual, isolated incident at a store locally owned and operated by a franchisee." The statement said that the company "maintains a zero-tolerance policy against any violations of professional conduct."
In the end, it was Crider who got in the last word — and the correct word, at that.
"One little tidbit of advice," Crider says. "You want to sit there and you want to spread your hate, and you want to say these hurtful things? Try to understand what it is that you're saying. I'm not a fag.
"I'm a dyke."
Watch Crider's video below.