“Oh no! The black people are a-coming! The black people are a-coming!”

Posted: May 13, 2013 in Uncategorized
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“What?” “What the hell is she talking about now?” was all I could think.

I looked up from the glass shelf I was cleaning. The manager of the store was suddenly jumping up from the stool she was sitting on behind the register. She briskly walked to the front of the little boutique I was working in and stared out into the parking lot through the glass where the mannequins were modeling our latest fashions for the season.

Yes. There were black people approaching the store.

There were 6 of them.

It was an entire herd of black people heading for our front door!

Two other employees looked up and then at each other. None of us knew why the manager was in such a tizzy. Granted, she was a lot older than us and moved a bit slower, but now she was acting as if she was Scarlet O’Hara and had just spotted Yankees on the front porch of Tara. I’d never seen her move so fast.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She was wringing her hands as she watched them come closer and closer.

She started to say something and then stopped. I still wasn’t sure I had heard her right.

“We need to keep an eye on them!” she whispered as the door opened and in they walked.

Black people. Right in front of me. At Stanford Shopping Center where all the “right” people shopped, including but not limited to celebrities, the wives and children of famous Stanford professors (who were some of the biggest shoplifters I had ever seen) and people who were too rich to shop so sent in their assistants to lower themselves to actually talk to the help, such as myself.

I said hello and smiled at them. There were 3 men and 3 women. They were dressed impeccably. They all smiled and walked over and each of them shook my hand.

“What can I do for you?” I asked as the manager gave them a tight smile and walked over and stood guard over the jewelry case.

“For Gods sake, it’s locked!” I thought.

“We are all going on a trip and since the ladies here love this store, we thought we would stop in here first and see what you have. They all need new clothes for the trip, so here we are,” said one of the men. The other two men nodded and rolled their eyes at their wives. The ladies were already looking around, pulling the clothes off the rack and commenting.

“OK, fair enough. Tell you guys what; sit down, be quiet and we’ll take care of them,” I said and started laughing.

“That’s what we’re afraid of,” one of them said and grinned. They did as they were told and soon we were all running in and out of the dressing rooms with clothes. Some were kept, some were discarded and some were put in a pile to be determined later.

It was one of the best afternoons could recall since working there. The shopping center was very prestigious, but to me it was just a job to make the money to pay my rent. I would leave every evening, walk across the expressway (in shoes that were amazing and I couldn’t afford but had to “look” the part) and sit in the dark and wait for the bus. I didn’t have a car and I had bills to pay. I learned how hard retail people work for the money they make.

I learned that too many people thought they were better than others because they made more money than them. I learned that people who don’t earn their money, don’t appreciate it or those who work hard for what they earn. I learned that some women thought themselves too good to have their delicate and precious bare feet touch the carpet in the dressing room and required that I find tissue to place on the floor for them to step on.

But these women had me in stitches. They were gracious and appreciative of all the hard work we were doing. They helped us haul the clothes in and out, place them back on the hangar and not throw them on the floor for us to pick-up. They hugged me, constantly thanked me and made all of us feel as if we were important.

The men sat quietly and waited. One nodded off but the manager never stopped watching them.

They were well aware of her and never said a word. They just smiled.

They were nicer than I would have been if the positions had been reversed.

By the end of the day, they had each purchased several outfits and many pieces of jewelry. The manager helped them with the jewelry. Her smile was false, her tone was clipped and she actually kept her glasses perched on her nose and looked down at them.

When it came time to pay, one of the gentlemen handed the manager his credit card. She checked it against the log (the Internet hadn’t arrived yet) and spent a long time checking and double checking his account. We all stood by and waited.

She asked him for some ID.

He smiled and handed it to her.

She inspected it for a few minutes and handed it back to him.

She asked for another piece of ID. He handed it to her and she again inspected it.

Our policy was to only ask for one valid form of ID. I looked at him. He smiled and shrugged and winked.

She hesitated as she handed it back to him. We had packed all of their clothes perfectly. We made sure they weren’t wrinkled. I asked them if they wanted hangars for a few of the pieces.

“No, we don’t give out hangars,” the manager said.

This was not true.

I looked at her for a moment. I wasn’t going to argue the point.

“We do now,” I said and began hanging up their clothes for them. The other employees pitched in. The manager glared at us and didn’t lift a finger to help.

I asked if they wanted help out to their car. They looked as if they had purchased the entire store.

“That would be great, but let me go get the car, OK?” one of the men asked. He left the store. We stood and chatted with them until he pulled up.

It was a gorgeous car. We all took an armful and placed everything in the trunk. They hugged us and waved as they drove away.

We walked back into the store. It looked like there had been a war, but it was fun. We started to clean-up and put things away. The women had offered but we wouldn’t let them. They had been kind enough.

“Why did you give them those hangars?” the manager asked me.

The room got quiet. I thought about it for a moment.

“Because I’m not a racist bitch like you,” I said. I figured I was about to get fired and couldn’t afford to lose my job, but the words just came out and there they were.

She turned around, grabbed her purse and left for the day.

I leaned against the counter. I felt sick and worried. The other employees came over and hugged me.

Three days later I got another job and quit. The manager never said a word to me when I gave her my notice.

One of the happiest moments of my life was when I walked out of there and never looked back.

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Comments
  1. Good for you! So many are unable to meet people where they’re at and strip the labels to just see humanity. Love this!

  2. Sharon Walsh says:

    Holy crap that is just beyond belief!! I worked for an upscale clothing store and we loved it when a good customer came in and we spent an hour or two running back and forth getting outfits to try on, Some nights we’d be there an hour after closing, putting all those clothes away. And you know what? We loved it.

  3. westgapeachpit says:

    Good for you, Susan-good for you.

  4. Deena White says:

    Reminds me of this one time where this little old lady came into this frou frou boutique I used to work at in SoHo. She looked kinda disheveled and homeless, so my manager told me to keep an eye on her. I went over and asked if she needed help; she grinned and I spent the next two hours helping her pick out toys and assorted random shit for her granddaughters.

    My manager gave me the stink eye the whole time, as if I should rush the lady out.

    We filled up two baskets and I helped her to the register. My manager rushed to the register to ring her up… Girlfriend whips out a platinum AmEx and pays over $400 for her haul. She thanked me profusely, ignored my manager, and strolled out like a boss.

    My manager didn’t have shit to say when that lady left.