When Keepin’ It Real Goes Wrong: Wal-Mart
So, I went inside a Wal-Mart …
No singular statement evokes such an impending doom. I should know better. To tell you the truth, my most recent experience will most likely be my last.
I took a brief moment one rainy recent Saturday afternoon to grab a couple of necessities and after an uneventful trek I paced the 30-odd check-out stations looking for an advantageous cashier.
Bingo. Tucked in the middle was a near empty line with a lady sliding her debit card. No one behind her.
Oddly, just as I turned to enter the non-existent queue a semi-chunky Hispanic girl, of about age 8, ran up, looked down to the cashier, peeked her head back out and waved someone to that spot. She looked up at me as I walked past her.
Honestly, I thought maybe she was looking for some salty or sugary treat or just a child run amok. Turns out she was reconnaissance.
As I tossed my items (maybe a dozen) onto the conveyor belt, and I jumped a little when I felt a presence behind me and I heard in a very clear almost comical Hispanic accent, “What’s up, man?”
I turned an faced a Hispanic male of about 35 years of age. Shaved head. Eyes piercing. Eyebrows scrunched in anger. He stood about 5′ 5″ (which is actually shorter than me and I’m super short), but lean. He looked like a member of the Biz-Lats from The Shield or a Mayan from Sons of Anarchy.
And bowed up like a riled up fightin’ rooster.
“Didn’t you see my daughter?” he growled. Not yelling. Voice raised maybe a decibel.
At the time, not automatically putting the puzzle pieces together (the girl, the wave), I was confused and I started filing through my brain to figure out what was happening and why.
“Umm. No. Your daughter?”
“Yeah, man. She was already in line and you walked by her. She said you gave her a look. Did you give her a look?”
OK. I’m getting anxious because I don’t have a clue what he’s insinuating. At this point, I’ve looked over his shoulder to see the same semi-chunky girl along with a toddler. No adult female in sight. I recognize the girl and the pieces come together in my spinning head as I begin to understand that I might get punched square in the nose any second. Still, the thought that a guy who may or may not be a Zeta thinks I might be ogling his kid freaked me out.
“Yeah. She said that you looked at her. She was already in line and you cut in front of her.”
I relax a smidge. He doesn’t think I’m a pedophile. Just an asshole. For the record, I don’t care if you’re the ringleader of the Crips, grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan or the lead singer of Boston, you don’t get to send your offspring out to hold places in line. This is supposed to be some sort of a civilization.
“Well, honestly I did not see your daughter in line.”
“Yeah, well, how are we going to settle this?”
This is actually happening. That thought ran through my head 1,000 times in about five seconds. His chest is puffed and his arms are convulsing in his hypnotic thrust like he’s a bullfighter. I think he was trying to egg me on. In all seriousness, he was fully prepared to get into a fist fight in front of the poor trash of Wal-Mart and his two children. The lesson he was going to teach would resonant with them throughout their waitressing careers: You don’t take crap from anyone!!
“Yeah. Settle this?”
“Settle this?!? Settle what? Settle …???”
I could not believe for the life of me why I was about to get shivved in the kidneys over order in a cashier’s line (no telling what she was thinking because she witnessed the entire ordeal).
“Do you want to go in front of me? Here, you go first …” I said as I begin to place my items in the cart.
“No, no, man. I just want to know why you gave my daughter a look.”
“Honestly, I didn’t give your daughter a look and if she thinks I gave her a look I apologize.”
“Well, that’s not good enough.”
I eased up a bit here. I’ve seen Boyz ’n the Hood. I know that if this dude was truly keepin’ it real, he would let it go and then stake out my routine in order to do a drive-by. Instead, this was just a passive-aggressive gangsta wannabe, who also has seen Boyz ’n the Hood and Carlito’s Way.
“It’s all I got,” I said with some finality glaring into his eyes.
“Alright, man. Just go on.”
He turns around to his cart and children. The cashier had already started scanning my items. I’m shaking as I complete my transaction. I walk out with my face intact, no worse for the wear.
Listen, I realized that I marginalized this guy a bit due to his ethnicity, which I would feel mildly bad about if he himself weren’t playing up to some role or image that he has of himself. I know plenty of guys that do this. Guys that have a fractional tie to the mean streets, who wound up going to private universities and now live in the suburbs. It’s some sort of badge of honor that they didn’t even earn. It means something to them, and that’s fine.
But let me tell you idiots something: It’s not nearly as cool as you think it is. And you’re 1,000 times more transparent than you will even know.
Keep it real, folks.