You recall the UConn bacon-jalapeno-mac-n-cheese teen, I’m sure. In a viral video, since taken down (but this site has a nice play-by-play, if you missed it, and a few copies seem to still be floating around Youtube), a privileged and intoxicated young gentleman went on a tirade in his school cafeteria about the workers’ refusal to provide him with the meaty, cheesy, spicy glutinous treat he craved. WE HAVE UPDATES.
But first, do you, like me, wonder about the backstory? Why was Luke Gatti denied his creamy object of yearning? Did his tantrum occur during breakfast? Was it at lunch or dinner, but there was no bacon-jalapeno-mac-n-cheese on offer that day? HAD there been bacon-jalapeno-mac-n-cheese earlier, but by the time of Gatti’s slurring arrival, it had been consumed by other hungry, hungry Huskies? “I have money!” he bellowed repeatedly. Why was his heart’s desire kept from him? Will we ever know?
All we know is what we see in the video, taken on October 6th. After hurling an array of homophobic and ableist insults, Young Master Gatti assaults the calm cafeteria manager, repeatedly shoving him and finally spitting in his face. He is removed from the cafeteria by in handcuffs.
This was not Master Gatti’s first brush with the law. He’d been arrested twice for disorderly conduct in 2014, while a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. During those incidents he resisted arrest, used racial slurs against an arresting officer, and injured an officer. Soon afterward Gatti transferred to UConn, which expelled him after the cafeteria attack. He is apparently enrolled elsewhere now.
On October 12th, Gatti posted an apology video, of sorts. It’s not great. Sitting on a black floral couch, against a puce wall, Gatti begins, “I saw the video of me and I just wanna get a few things out there.”
Mm. “Getting a few things out there” is poor form. It conveys doing damage control, spewing words into the ether, taking a scattershot PR-oriented approach. It’s not a personal, humble effort to reach out, specifically, to the people he hurt.
“I wanna start by apologizing to all the staff involved in my incident, especially the manager, who was just doing his job.”
“My incident” doesn’t say what happened — what the apology is for. It’s deliberately opaque, a way of naming and avoiding real responsibility for the specific gross things he did. (“My incident” also has unfortunate echoes of Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative:” “Everybody’s talkin’ all this stuff about me/Why don’t they just let me live/I don’t need permission/Make my own decisions/That’s my prerogative.”)
Gatti continues speaking of the manager, “He gave me so many chances to walk away and I didn’t listen to him. I was just a complete asshole to him instead. No one deserves to be treated that way, ever.” This is good! But then he offers what sounds very much like a justification or excuse: “At the time I was to say the least very intoxicated. And, like, when I watched the video a few days later, I couldn’t even believe it was me in it! Like, I was just watching it thinking, ‘Oh my god, like, what the hell’s wrong with me? This isn’t what I’m all about! I don’t treat people this way!'”
Nope. Being drunk doesn’t change who you fundamentally are. Most drunk people sing “I’ve Never Been to Me” at karaoke or fall asleep on the couch while watching The Big Bang Theory or sob “I love you guys so muh-uh-uh-huch” to their equally sodden friends or yell WHOOOO! while waving a sloshing red Solo cup. Some drunk people, though, lose the filter that keeps them civilized. They yell anti-Semitic slurs or make imperious demands and physically push around food-service workers. In the realm of decent apology, it is verboten to say “that’s not who I am” or “I don’t act like this” or “I don’t treat people this way” after you do a thing. You did the thing. Dissociation doesn’t make it less done. By the transitive property of thingness, that is indeed who you are.
Gatti concludes, “I really am ashamed of myself. The thing that’s always gotten me into trouble is my big mouth. I don’t know when to shut up. I’ve got some problems that I am addressing. This was seriously a wake-up call.” Dude. No one cares. Not about you. Apologies are about who you hurt and how you intend to make it up to them. Getting help for addiction and narcissism is a great idea, but that’s your business; it’s not apology-relevant. Gatti finally apologizes to his friends and family for disappointing them, and to the school for “representing it so poorly,” but this comes off as the part of the Oscar speech when the person thanks his agents and lawyers.
AND NOW THE NEWS: The cafeteria manager, David Robinson, has spoken and his response is superb. Here’s the letter he wrote to the UConn student newspaper, the Daily Campus, published this past Monday.
Dear Mr. Gatti,
I saw the video you posted on your YouTube channel. I am neither accepting nor rejecting an apology, because what you offered was not an apology. You sat on a comfy chair in a comfy den in a comfy home and spoke to a camera. Was I in that room? Have you reached out to me directly? A heartfelt apology is directed at a human being in their presence.
You swore in my face, put your hands on my person, belittled my career and my very status as a human being worthy of dignity and respect. I was obliged to restrain myself due to a fundamental aversion to violence, professionalism, and a desire to represent Dining Services and UConn as a whole in a positive light. But I also restrained myself against your provocations because I imagined any escalation could result in injuries and therefore legal obligations involving a court appearance.
You see, it was my last night of work, and I had a plane ticket out of the country for the following Sunday, to reunite with my lovely family, and I was determined not to jeopardize that in any way. I am in South America now, living with my in-laws and volunteering at a local school teaching English. I chose to sacrifice a decent paying job and a comfortable life to help my wife recover and to take care of her ailing father. Life is difficult here, it’s sort of a combination of a tropical paradise and a gritty third world city, but my family is together again so I am happy.
Do you have a passport? If not, get one, and I invite you to come and visit. You can stay with us and you can see how the real 99 percent live. There are wonderful people here, I am learning a lot and I’m sure you would too. They know how to laugh and enjoy life even in the midst of real struggle and hardship. Travelling to a place like this will make you see how much we take for granted, I promise you will not go home the same. Also, no-one here knows about our little video; I suspect no-one would care, they have real things to worry about.
So I repeat in all sincerity: Buy a plane ticket, come visit, and then you can apologize in person, the way it should be done. If you do these things, I will gladly accept your apology.
Impressive. Gracious but sharp and pointed. Legit.
Robinson’s letter made me wonder if there’d been any other apologies or forgiveness I might have missed. So I looked around, and indeed, the cafeteria’s chef, Bill McKay — the guy who actually tackled Gatti to the ground after he pushed Robinson hard — also wrote a letter to the Daily Campus. It was published on October 15th. It’s long, and you should read the whole thing here, but here are some snippets.
I forgive Luke Gatti.
I hope that got your attention, because it’s the truth. I almost see people rolling their eyes or shaking their heads. Let me ask you a question. How would you like to have your dumbest mistake you’ve ever made broadcast to the world? How would you like to be turned into a pariah?
Now, let me be equally clear. Forgiveness does not mean I believe Gatti shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions. He should, and he will. But people need to stop beating him over the head. I find it ironic that just a few weeks after UConn hosted a suicide prevention forum that I’m reading many comments telling Gatti he should kill himself.
Many people have told me his apology is not sincere. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I may be called naive, foolish or worse, for thinking this way, but that is not my concern, and in the end I just have to answer to me.
I’ve heard people say he’s not sincere because he’s not looking in the camera. I can tell you from experience when I was younger I couldn’t look my parents in the eyes when I did something wrong like this. Also, in my case, I’ve always had a nervous smirk that has gotten me into trouble with both my dad and drill sergeants who felt I was treating the situation as a joke when in fact I was just nervous.
He goes on:
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. The bottom line is since I am a Christian I need to forgive. I can’t say no because I don’t believe your apology is sincere. I’ve not always been the best Christian, but perhaps I can use what happened to set an example now.
If I’m really going to be a hero to my daughters, I need to teach them about forgiveness. That doesn’t mean I can teach them that people can do whatever they want. You can forgive someone, but they still need to accept responsibility for their actions.
I’d gently add, wearing my SorryWatch hat (it’s made of bread) that forgiveness is up to the individual Christian. If McKay weren’t ready to forgive, he wouldn’t, in my view, be sinning. Many Christians do think forgiveness is an obligation, but I don’t think Jesus insisted on a timetable. (Of course, I’m a Jew, so what do I know. Christians, feel free to weigh in.)
McKay forgives, but adds that he believes Gatti should be expelled — both because he doesn’t seem ready for college and because more deserving students should get his spot. He recommends that Gatti join the military, as he himself did. He urges Gatti to get in touch (“I’m not that hard to find”) and concludes, “To the mass media, and everyone who wants to keep putting him down and beating a dead horse, I say the same thing I told Luke that night: you’re done. Show’s over.”
I can respect that, and I’ll move on.
PS. But first, here is the recipe for UConn’s bacon-jalapeno-mac-n-cheese.