On my lunch break today I went to the hardware store to buy some closet pole for another one of Dan & Brooke’s Home Improvement Adventures™. There was a nice Mexican guy who said he would cut the closet pole for me. I told him how long I needed it and he went downstairs. He came back upstairs and handed me two pieces of wood. He said, “You pay for whole thing.” I briefly considered leaving the second length of pole with him, because what the hell am I going to do with it? A man only needs so much closet pole. But somehow I came to the conclusion that it was better to inconvenience myself by carrying a five foot piece of wood home with me than to pay for something only to give it back to the very man who was ripping me off in the first place.
Anyway, I went to the register to pay and on line in front of me was a woman pushing a baby stroller. The guy behind the counter (who happened to be black) was holding up a bundle of rope. “This is the thinnest rope we have,” he told the woman.
“Oh,” she replied, seeming concerned. “I guess I’ll have to take that.” Then: “You could tie that into a noose, right?”
I quickly looked over my shoulder to see if anyone else had heard it. Could she actually have asked him that? But yes, she must have – because he replies, tentatively, at best, “Sure . . . I think you could.” She then takes the rope from him and BEGINS MAKING A NOOSE.
I’m confused. Is this really happening? Am I in some bad Civil War play? Finally, she hands him the rope back and says, “I’ll take two feet.” He seems happy that the transaction will soon be over, but not before she then asks, “You think that will look authentic, right?” I don’t think I will ever hear the word “authentic” again without remembering the time a white woman asked a black salesman if the rope he was selling her would make for an authentic looking noose.
She finally paid and left. As I went up to the register, I debated whether or not to convey my astonishment to the salesman. I had to decide quick, and in the moment of my indecision on whether to vocalize my feelings or remain silent, a muted harrumph escaped my mouth. Fully dedicated to the interaction now, I followed it up with a look that said, “Can you believe that woman? A noose of all things!” However, I fear the salesman mistook my gesture of harmonious brotherhood as a sigh of indignation. Apparently my “Can you believe that racist woman?” eyes are very similar to my “Can you hurry up, I’m in a rush” eyes. (Who knew?)
The lesson? I don’t think there is one here. Like Abraham Lincoln said, “Sometimes you overpay for closet pole, and that’s just how it is.”