Some days you think you’ve heard everything. Most days I think I have.
I work the long haul at Shop ‘n Save. I have an extended family to feed so I pretty much keep my nose forward at the register, acknowledge people nicely, and nod when they say outrageous things.
So, this man comes in. A fat white guy who thinks that stubble on him looks good. Let me tell you, honey, the only place stubble looks good is on very fit, good looking men, of any color, and I’ll even give in to any age, within reason. Otherwise, you look like you’re a derelict serial killer.
He comes in often. He thinks he’s funny, charming. I’ve seen him sitting front row at church with his rotund wife who he calls “cutesy-pie.” I’ve heard he’s studying to be a preacher or a deacon or some such. I go to church to listen to sermons and try to be a better person, I don’t know the terms and don’t pretend to.
He comes down my lane, he looks at me conspiratorially. “That other clerk, what’s her name, Ruth, Ruthie, Ruthann?”
I look at him like I don’t know what he’s talking about. Because frankly I don’t. We don’t have a Ruth. We have a Glory, and I know that’s who he’s going to complain about.
“She called me ‘honey.’ I think she was coming on to me. It was an insult to me and my wife,” he says, while sliding his glasses up his broad nose.
I slide his groceries through. “Uh-huh.”
“Don’t you think it’s forward for a woman to call a man ‘honey’?” he asks.
I’ve finished ringing him up and am waiting for him to pay. He’s busy waiting for my answer.
I shrug. “Some people are friendlier than others and mean nothing by it.”
“Even when it’s offensive?”
I look down because I certainly don’t want to meet his eyes. I love Glory. When she calls people ‘honey’ it comes from a non-sexual place in her heart. Because Glory accepted me, a woman frequently referred to as “white trash,” when I needed help, I will never be disloyal to her. She’s a black woman. She knows what it means to be down. And maybe that’s why I finally raise my eyes and look at him.
“I’m sure you’re mistaken. No offense. We have no one who works here who would be sexually forward with you.”
He looks down his wide nose at me. For several uncomfortable seconds. I feel a little sick inside, like I might have said or done something wrong and am going to get fired, which I can’t afford. But, wasn’t I polite the way Granny taught me?
A bead of sweat sprouts on his forehead followed by many more. His eyelids flutter and then he takes his bag and leaves.
I lean back against the register for a moment catching the breath that I didn’t know I was holding.
Glory pats me on the shoulder. “Are you okay? You look like death.”
“Just that man.”
She looks toward the parking lot. “Him?”
“Don’t get yourself upset over the likes of him. He came onto me the other day. He thought my calling him ‘honey’ meant something like I should take him home. When I disillusioned him, he got all huffy.”
I look at her and grin. Now I understand. And yet a part of me itches because I know that men like him never quite let an issue slide away. Glory and me need these jobs. That knowledge is like a toothache no dentist can fix.