As I've mentioned before, one of my two jobs is for a national shipping company. I work right in the center of my town. We usually get the snobby University of Delaware children coming in, but every so often we get a visit from a different sort of SC entirely.
I was working Friday afternoon at the counter when in comes this guy who looks to be in his early fifties: leather biker jacket, scraggly beard, various affiliation patches on said jacket, longish graying brown hair, and cane. He brought with him a laptop that he wanted to ship back to the manufacturer (a computer company with a Japanese name). So I begin to ask him the usual questions that we are meant to ask when someone brings in something that they want to ship (i.e., Have you ever shipped from here before? When would you like it to get there? etc, etc), and he hands me a slip of paper with return to shipper information on it. Then, out of the blue, he looks at me, and, in a confiding-from-one-old-hand-to-another
tone of voice says, "Man, you don't want to know what I've been through with this piece of sh*t. I'm 'bout to lose my mind, talking on the phone all day long with those people. You know, the gooks
I looked at him a bit stunned, and feeling as though I must have misheard him. "Excuse me?," I said, "what did you say?"
And he repeated it. Louder. Totally unashamed of his racism. Unashamed-and-almost-leaning-into-proud-of-it-territory
. I immediately excused myself from his presence to go in the back room for a second or two to calm down, as this royally pissed me off. One of my bosses (the place is owned by two guys) sort of took over part of the transaction while I calmed down. And he (my boss) was just all smiles and chatty with the guy!
When the guy had left, several minutes later (after much very friendly small talk between him and my bosses and the packing up of his laptop) I asked my boss if I could talk with him for a moment. I wanted him to know that the reason for what probably seemed like a very abrupt change in my demeanor
was because of how very offended I was by what the racist old asshat said. He looked at me a bit skeptically, and then proceeded to tell me that if I was going to be so sensitive to things like that, then I was probably not going to be real happy at work there because "we all joke around like that all the time - you're gonna hear way worse from us all the time."
Needless to say, maybe, but this upset my applecart even more and my whole "game" and mentality was off for most of the rest of my afternoon.
I didnít even realize people even still used
that horrid expression. But the very fact that the asshat grizzled customer thought I should be sympathetic to it was nauseating. I wanted to vomit.
On top of all that I'm now feeling ashamed that I was so afraid of potentially angering my boss that I didnít stand up for what was right when the moment presented itself to me. Was I wrong to excuse myself in such a neutral fashion? I mean, I excused myself from his presence exactly one beat away from when he said what he said, so, I imagine he might have possibly had an inkling
of some kind that he had just said something wrong. But I really feel low that I didnít say, ďYou know what? What you just said was very offensive and Iím going to excuse myself now - perhaps someone else here can help you.Ē Is it all a matter of picking your battles when you can?
I find myself now hoping that there is a one-in-a-million chance Iíll run into that guy on the street in the next few days. Hoping that, maybe at the bus stop, or in the lobby of the supermarket, heíll see me, remember me, and strike up a conversation. Hoping that when that happens, Iíll open my mouth instead of fearfully clamming shut and tell him what I really think of his racist attitudes.