Monday, December 29, 2008

you never know

Allie waited in the car while I ducked into the Walgreens to pick something up real quick. The line was long when I walked in, and it hadn't appeared to have moved by the time I'd snatched up my goods and took my place at the end of it.

But just then a woman took her place behind the photo counter and said, "I can help whoever's next." And I was right there; just two steps away. That never happens to me. I always intuitively pick the slowest line.

As I placed my stuff on the counter, I noticed a man approaching with a scowl. He'd gotten there before me, so I'd basically stolen his place. He was a tough looking black guy, with a nylon skull cap. He was big, and I think he might have had a gold tooth or two.

Rationally, I didn't think he would hurt me. But a nexus of white-man fear nexus in the inner core of my reptilian brain stem went into alert. I dared not look him in the eye.

The clerk took my money and handed me my change. As I scooped up my goods, I watched him set his items down. First, with an emphatic clunk, a tall can of high-energy drink. Then, with a quiet slide, a box of tampons.

2 comments:

Sophia said...

"I can help whoever's next" usually means the second person in line, not the last. Particularly with a counter (drug store, banks, etc) set up. If you noticed the man approaching as you placed your stuff on the counter, why not push your stuff aside, apologize to him and let him go ahead?

I, too, suffer from the ability to always pick the slowest line, so I can sympathize with your excitement at the new register opening up. I guess from a narrative perspective I find it interesting that you chose to go in the "scary black guy buys tampons" direction rather than in the "in my excitement and self-absorption I lost track of social norms" direction. But then I'm fairly obsessive about social graces towards strangers being an important quality of life issue.

Anonymous said...

moving here from Boston, I found this line cutting behavior a sore spot among an otherwise much better behaved population. In Boston you first of all do not dare do it - essentially everyone - man, woman, child - is a gold-toothed black man - and if it is done to you, you give a loud "how about a little courtesy here!" and then you take the courtesy accorded - I have never seen it not given