B   ubba eats his breakfast in the same York County restaurant almost every morning. And he's been doing it that way for a bunch of years. In restaurant parlance, he's a regular.

And he's not the only one. It's one of those places where people gather to eat, but with an ample plate of conversation thrown into the mix.

Every day, the topic of discussion is something different. Sometimes it's about something someone has seen, or heard, or experienced since breakfast the day before. Sometimes it's about family. Sometimes it's about something a diner saw on TV the night before.

Anyway, the way it works is someone makes a comment and then a waitress chimes in, and then another patron gives an opinion, and before you know it half the people in the place are giving their two cents' worth.

It's fun.

It's friendly.

And it often provides insight into the inner workings of the human mind.

Last week, for instance, Bubba was sitting at a table thinking about a story he'd seen on CNN the night before. It was a shock to his system. So he asked out loud how other people would react if they found themselves in the same situation, because he thought the guy got off easy.

In a nutshell, here's the story:

On Feb. 8, a white woman from Minnesota and her adopted 19-month-old black child were sitting on a Delta Air Lines plane headed for Atlanta. Sitting next to them was Joe Rickey Hundley, a 60-year-old top executive for an aerospace company from Hayden, Idaho.

In other words, this was no dumb-ass redneck living in the backwoods somewhere. He is presumably well educated, a man of some intelligence, with enough life experience to know better than to do what he's accused of doing.

As the plane began to make its descent into Atlanta, the child became upset and started to cry. Anyone who's ever flown on an airplane knows that will happen from time to time. Maybe it's the altitude change. Maybe the plane bumps and bounces a bit. For a baby, it can be a bit frightening, I guess.

Anyway, the mother tried to soothe the toddler, talking to him in hushed tones.

Hundley apparently ran out of patience, however. According to witnesses and the CNN report, he allegedly told the mother to "shut that (N-word) baby up."

That was bad enough. Then when she asked him to repeat it because she couldn't believe what she'd heard, he repeated it.

Then he turned toward her and slapped the child in the face with an open hand. That, of course, caused the baby to scream louder, an FBI affidavit said.

The toddler allegedly suffered a scratch below his right eye.

Other passengers quickly came to her rescue, and Hundley was arrested last Tuesday, charged with assaulting a minor.

Those are the important details.

Anyway, Bubba asked a couple of women patrons at the restaurant how they might have responded if they'd found themselves in the same situation and someone slapped their child.

The response was lightning quick:

"I'd punch him in the face," one woman said.

"I'd find something to hit him over the head with," another said.

"I'd kill him," said yet another.

So it went around the room.

And more of the same the next morning. People were waiting for Bubba to show up so they could revisit the subject. For a couple of days, it was a hot topic in the restaurant.

You'll be glad to know York County men and women were irate. It's the kind of thing that will make decent people of all colors, all ethnic backgrounds, all religions, all genders, all ages just angry as hell.

A grown man slapping a baby in the face for crying.

It's insane. That's just my opinion, of course, not a psychiatric evaluation.

Let me just put it this way -- Hundley would have seen his life flash before his eyes an instant after he'd slapped my child in the face for any reason, much less for crying.

This, of course, was a racial incident, though Hundley's lawyer says that's not the case.

But when a white man directs the N-word at the mother of a black child, it's racial. No way around that. Make all the excuses you want, explain it any way you want, it's still racial.

And that fact was immediately recognized by Bubba's co-patrons at his favorite breakfast haunt.

It warmed his heart to hear it.

Mine, too.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.