Something happened to me last week here in Melbourne, Australia that had me so enraged, I banged out an angry email to my close friends and vented on Twitter in total frustration.
On my third day in Melbourne, I went to the grocery store to pick up few things. Standing at the back of line only three people deep, an employee opened up a new checkout and waved me over to him. I put my three items down on the counter and no more than 5 seconds after putting them down, a middle-aged couple rush up behind me and the woman pushes my things forward and huffs, “move it up! Move it up!”
I think her instructions were directed at me and also at the cashier who didn’t make any motion to move up the conveyer belt and make room for her items. Then her equally leathery-skinned partner takes his basket and DUMPS them on the (still unmoving) belt on top of my items. He’s also shouting, “move it up!”
Irritated by their extreme rudeness I say, “excuse me, I JUST put my things down and you weren’t behind me. If you give me a moment I could have moved them.” There was no rationalizing with this barbaric couple, the man shouts, “get it out of my way! Move it up! I don’t know how you do it in YOUR country but that’s how we do it here.”
At first I assumed the dig at “YOUR country” was because they assumed I was American due to my accent. Later I realized it probably meant whatever Asian country they believed I was from. Those words lit a fire inside me. I said to the cashier (quite loudly and with surprise) “My goodness! I thought Australians were polite! What a shocker!”
The poor cashier hid a smile and looked at me almost apologetically. The woman saw the smile and that we were looking at each other and shouts, what’s this? What’s this thing you two have?” Waving her crooked finger between myself and the young gentleman checking my groceries. “Do you think we’re funny?”
Me: “Oh, I DEFINITELY don’t think you’re funny.”
Leathery woman: “Well I think you’re funny! Ha! (beat) Ha!”
Leathery man: “It’s because we’re not the same colour as them they think they can do those things.”
Whoa! Leather Man…you hit a nerve. I should mention that the young kid working there was perhaps 19 or 20 and dark skinned though I am not sure of his ethnicity.
I was so shocked and angry my skin was actually tingling. I smiled at them, I smiled at the poor guy at the checkout and thanked him when he handed me my change. It was then that he spoke shyly, “I really hope you enjoy the rest of your day.”
My reply, “I hope your day gets a LOT better.” I walked away as Leather Man and Leather Woman kept grumbling and taunting but by this time I had tuned them out. I felt badly that I could walk away and that poor kid had to stay there and listen to them ranting.
Fast forward a week and a half later, I am back at the grocery store today and an employee comes by to collect the empty baskets and smiles at me. I didn’t recognize him at first and then he said, “that was crazy last week.”
I felt like I was seeing a long lost friend and told him how ridiculous it was and how I felt bad that I could walk away but he was stuck with them. He said that when I left he REFUSED to serve them. I wanted to hug this kid. They kept nattering on about people in “their country” when I left and he said he wouldn’t serve them.
“Did you send them to another line?” I asked. I was really excited at this point.
Said the young employee (his name is Gill – he was wearing a nametag) “it’s racial assault. We can refuse to serve them.” Yes, verbal assault…I was so proud of him when he was so quiet and shy at the time.
“They were told to leave the store and they’re banned from shopping here again.”
Sweeeeeeeeet karma, friends. Sweet karma.
If I didn’t fear it being perceived as physical assault, I would have hugged dear, young Gill. I told him I believed they assumed I was American when in fact, I’m from Canada. Gill says his aunt lives in Canada and keeps telling him to move there because they are very accepting people.
“Is it a nice country?” Gill asked me.
“Yes, it is a very nice country. Where does your aunt live?”
I laughed what probably sounded like a crazy-lady laugh. Small world.
Just then I notice that my groceries are rung in and bagged and I see that I am $3.15 short. I only had $2o on me and asked the cashier to take out an item when Gill hands her a bill to cover my $3.15 despite my refusal and protest.
Tomorrow, I am going back to the grocery store with an envelope containing $5 and a thank-you note along with my email address should Gill want some help if he ever makes the move half way around the world to a new country.
What goes around, comes around, my friends.