Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday Night

Last night I was browsing the magazines at Borders and standing about two feet to the left of a man who was, in turn, about a foot to the left of the New Yorker. I reached for the New Yorker and then walked around the man to the adjacent stand. A few seconds later, I heard him voicing some sort of complaint. When I realized he was directing his comments to me, I looked at him for several seconds without saying anything. He was a tall and imposing person, and though I felt intimidated, I certainly wasn't going to shrink. "Excuse me? What's the problem?" I asked.

"You practically hit me in the face with that magazine," he said.

This was a ridiculous lie, but I felt it would be a waste of time to point it out. "I'm sorry," I decided to say. "I didn't realize that was the case." I then walked around to the other side of the fixture. He continued to watch me over the top of the stand. Non-reaction, I guessed, was my best bet. He started saying other things that I couldn't make out, and I continued to ignore him. Then he very quickly walked over to me and said, "Do you even have a green card? Because it doesn't look like you have a green card."

"What?! You are going to stop talking to me right now," I said.

"I'm from immigration and I want to see your green card."

At this point, I was completely rattled. I walked over to the cafe staff and told them I was being harassed. Much to their credit, they used their headphone system to call a manager over quickly. The man yelled something and then walked to the music section, where he was approached by the manager. I bought a bottle of water, and when I handed over my money I found—much to my anger and embarrassment—that my hands were badly shaking.

After watching the manager speak to the man, I assumed he would leave. I sat down at a table, took out my laptop, and went through the motions of doing what I had come to do in the first place, which was write. Soon, the manager joined me.

"So I talked to that customer, and I guess you hit him?"

"What?! I did not hit him. He was standing near a magazine that I grabbed."

"Oh. Well, I told him if anything like that ever happened again, he should come and find a manager."

"I think you're missing the point," I said. "He was also making offensive racial comments."

"Oh, well then I'll ask him to leave then."


The manager went to talk to the man again, and the cafe manager came over to my table. "I'm really sorry," she said. "Here's a coupon for a free drink."

It was a ridiculous—albeit well-meaning—gesture, so I just said, "Thank you. I appreciate that."

I don't know if the man was, indeed, asked to leave. If he was, he didn't do so. He kept skirting the edge of the cafe staring at me, but I decided to stop paying attention. About a half hour later, it was time for me to pick the SU up at the airport. By then, though, it was completely dark outside. Had the man left? Was he crazy enough to be watching me through the cafe window and waiting for me to leave? Again I felt anger and embarrassment: I was going to have to ask someone to walk me to my car.


Five minutes after leaving Borders and still thinking, of course, about what had happened, I saw some movement in the car to my left. I turned to look, and it was a twenty-something-year-old man who felt the inexplicable need to wave to me and display his ability to exercise his tongue in a highly offensive manner.


Now, this is something that every woman deals with on a fairly regular basis. On any other night it probably wouldn't have fazed me at all. But to be subject to sexual harassment right on the heels of dealing with racially-motivated insults was too much. By the time I made it to the airport, I was a highly demoralized person. Thank God for the SU, who is basically the only person in the world who inspires me to answer the question, "How are you?" in an honest way.


I have something to say to the next person who looks at me and sees a woman who is a doormat for ignorance or crude sexual advances:

I fucking DARE you.


Tracey said...

That is the most awful story I have heard in quite some time. I am so sorry. So very terribly sorry.

CookieDuster said...

Too bad you didn't see his car. I sensed jam on the door handles coming next...

cornshake said...

F*CK! This makes me so frigging angry!! Sorry this happened to you and thank goodness the 1st person you got to talk to was your dear SU...

ver said...

Thanks for commiserating with me, people! Of course now I'm thinking of a thousand things I should have done. Jam on his door handles wouldn't have been one of them, though, Mr. CD! Happy to report that that ability to retaliate in that way just isn't in my DNA (hey, that rhymes)...

Okir said...

Gawd, Ver, that sounds so awful. I would be shaking, too. Aghhh. Ugh.

liv said...

Where was this particular Borders located?
I experienced something similar at a Barnes and Noble in Colma..(White guy) He said," Go back to where you come from!" I looked at him from top to bottom and said," You need to go there too!"
It is extremely unfortunate to encounter ignorant,angry, and embittered people.
Take care and love your blog!

ver said...

Hi Liv. It was a Borders in San Mateo. Maybe we encountered the same guy. He probably just travels from bookstore to bookstore harassing unsuspecting people! Thanks for stopping by...

ver said...

And hi Jean! I didn't see your comment. I'm glad my hand-shaking reaction wasn't inconceivable to you. I felt like such a wimp at the time.