I went in hesitantly. I shop here, maybe, twice a year. One of those times is at Christmas, because I traditionally buy a certain gift here for a certain person. I've done it for a few years now. The problem is that the store caters to the very wealthy. Without getting into a lot of detail, I stick out like a chip on a manicured nail. I get glanced at by staff as if they need to be ready to call security when I nick some very overpriced soap. If it takes forty dollar soap to clean you - you can't be cleaned.
After entering I head straight for where I know they sell the product I'm looking for. As I approached, two women, leaning together and giggling are coming out. As they pass, one of them says, "What a fucking queen!" the other one, "No, no, I think he's just a fairy that's lost her wings." They howled I need not state that class and money are two entirely different things. I am close enough to hear them but too far away to get to them to say something about what they've said. I let it go and in I go.
I see a fairly crowded room, stuff balanced on tables, tables in the middle of the aisle. It pleases me to see that they've left room to get around, even though it will be tight. Off to my right are two clerks chatting. They'd looked up at me, dismissed me as a possible customer, and went back to chatting. This has happened to me before in this store, it resulted in a letter of complaint, and a discussion with someone senior about people with disabilities as customers. Guess it didn't work.
Deciding that I'd rather have help finding it because I didn't want to have to wander around looking for it increasing the opportunity to knock something over. I call to the two clerks and one of them, reluctantly leaves their conversation and comes over to me. I tell him what I'm looking for and he points to a bunch of tables in a perfunctory manner. Then he turns to leave, he has no intention of giving me a hand. But then I notice that I've dropped something, I ask if he could pick it up. He does and then runs off, presumibly to wash his hands with expensive soap.
On one table I find a version of what I want, but not exactly what I want. I am now in a different section of the store and am noticed by a man who, I know immediately, is the man they were referring to on their way out. I hate the words 'effeminate' or 'flamboyant' when applied negatively to, in this case, men. As he approached me, without me asking, I just knew he'd been bullied before, he's being bullied still, but he, with amazing dignity, stays true to himself.
"May I help you sir?" he asks. I tell him what I'm looking for, show him what I've picked up and explain why it's not quite right. He tells me he knows just what I want. He walks to a shelf, picks up a small item, brings it over. He's right it's perfect. I take it. I thank him. I tell him that I'm often not seen as a real customer at the store because I don't fit the image of those who come into the store. His face sets when I say this. "There is no image of who comes into this store, you come through the door, you are a customer." I nodd and say, "Well, to you maybe."
I follow him to the till I hear him muttering, "Everyone deserves to be treated with respect ... everyone."
And that's what I should have told those two who mocked him. Even if I had to yell it over to them. He deserved better of them. He deserved way better of me.