I am privileged to introduce you to Tessa Armstrong, our across the hall neighbour. Though we have been on friendly, neighbourly terms since we moved in, we've recently been chatting more and have even had our first date - tea for three. A couple days ago, Joe was chatting with Tessa and she told him a story. Then he told me. I immediately called Tessa and invited her to guest post on Rolling Around In My Head. So here's what passes for chit chat between neighbours here in Rolling Land. Tessa, you're on:
On Yonge Street, there are many of this particular type of store... colorful and varied purses and totes and luggage that seem to spill out onto the sidewalk from doors that are almost always wide open. Things hang on hooks from above and bulge out of bins. The items aren’t ‘high end’ but they are fun and interesting and often useful
I stopped at one of these inviting stores recently. There was a step, so I couldn’t get in on my scooter, but the cash desk was clearly visible. The sales person was there and no customers, so I smiled and waved and called out that I would like to see that red purse!
The man came out and I noticed he wasn’t smiling, but I did smile and said I would love to see that purse up there and if he had anything else that size.
Well.. he said NO!
He raised his hands and in a shooing motion indicated that I should leave!
He said “You are blocking the door on that thing. I don’t want you here. I can’t run back and forth for you. GO AWAY!”
And he kept shooing me.
I… I rolled away.
Usually, I am not shy and will say what needs saying. I have even been called aggressive on occasion. But I was embarrassed, and defeated, and teary-eyed as I rolled up the street. It got me in a way I had not felt in the two years that I have been using a scooter. Logic tells me I have nothing to be embarrassed about and it was his problem.
But this time, logic just didn’t make it ok.
Two days later, I was in the local large supermarket. There are many check-out lanes, but only one really accommodates my scooter. The others are too narrow. Unfortunately, the one lane that works for the scooter happens to be the Express Lane 1 – 10 items.
So, I rolled on over with about 20 items. There was no one behind me on line at first. When a gentleman arrived, I explained that this was the only lane I could use and asked if he would like to go ahead of me? He said no, no problem and I started unloading my things onto the counter.
I saw something out of the corner of my eye and turned to see a tall woman walking quickly right right up to me.
She said, very close to me and quite loud.. “This lane is for 10 items or less, can’t you COUNT?”
The guy behind me said “it’s the only lane she can use” and I (Looking UP at her, which I hated) said, “You can go ahead of me if the others agree. It IS the only lane I can use”.
She responded “Well, That’s sounds damn convenient to me” and stomped to the end of the 4 person line.
I just dropped my head for a moment, and said softly “that is embarrassing”
The cashier started muttering just under her breath “embarrassed .. you! not you dearie,, some people have no manners” and on she went... making me really chuckle.
The man behind me asked if he could help with the bag-into-the-basket maneuver and met my eyes, just shaking his head once as if he was embarrassed.
As I left I looked back at the women who had spoken and she lowered her eyes... and I understood! At that moment, I understood what these two events were about, at least for me.
I understood that not speaking back can be a powerful, effective and hopeful response to rude, even bullying behavior.
The woman lowered her eyes. She was embarrassed. There is a hope that woman was embarrassed enough to not do it again. I don’t even have to hope that she understood... she just may not wish to look that bad again.
I thought back to the purse store, and I no longer wished I had blasted him. I do wish I had calmly looked at him, and waited for him to turn away before i left. Perhaps it would have made him think.
At that moment I understood that I will not ever be mean back. Not ever, if I can help it, unless the confrontation is physical or someone else is being treated badly.
And I understood that I had done the right thing. If I had said one word in defense or protection, the woman in the grocery store would have a reason to be rude next time, and would have another story to tell about ‘those people’
Now she doesn’t