Saturday, January 09, 2010

In the "I'm not crazy, YOU'RE crazy" department

OK, you know how when various mean things happen to you in a row, you start to get paranoid and think, "It's me! I'm doing something horrible to deserve all of this shit!"?

Well, here's my story to refute that it's me! (Sometimes all it takes is a random NICE gesture to completely counteract the earlier shitty gesture, and to set things aright with the world again!)

'Twas the eve of Christmas Eve (aka, "December 23rd" for you nonliterary types)... Now, admittedly, I was stressed out to begin with. I had to go to work for 8 hours, and somewhere in there also find the time to pick up a few cheap trinkets for my family, since I was flying home for Christmas the next day (aka, "Christmas Eve"). (No, I usually never wait until the very last minute to Christmas shop. This year, I was extremely unemployed and extremely poor, and I didn't have enough money in my account to get anything at all until then.) Anyway, that's why I was tense.

I needed cash before work, so once I got into NYC from Weehawken, I stopped at an ATM center for my bank. In NYC, ATMs don't just sit in a wall, out in the open. There's always a glassed-in, locked area with multiple ATMs inside. You swipe your card at the door to get in.

I arrive at the door. I swipe my card. It doesn't work. I try it again. It still doesn't work, and I still can't get in. There's a young black woman standing at a counter near the door. I make eye contact with her, hold up my card (to prove that I'm really a customer and not a robber), and gesture toward the door, thinking she'll open the door. Instead, she pointedly looks away. I then knock on the door to get her attention again, thinking she misunderstood. I again hold up my card and gesture toward the door. She again purposely ignores me.

In the meantime, several people have lined up outside behind me. I tell them that my card's not working, not letting me in; maybe one of theirs will work? The guy behind me tries his card. His also does not work in the door. The woman behind him tries hers; it doesn't work. The young woman inside occasionally looks up at all of us struggling with our cards and gesturing at her, then looks back down at whatever she's doing.

Finally someone in the queue behind me has a card that allows the door to open. All 4 or 5 of us rush in gratefully. By this time, I am absolutely incensed and practically BELLOW at the woman inside: "What in the HELL is your problem? Did you not see all of us out there? You couldn't open the damn door?"

She looked at me calmly and said, "Who do you think I am that I should open a door for you?"

I was flabbergasted. And I fear that this was some sort of idiotic "I'm a Proud Black Woman and I don't open doors for white people" crazy bullshit. I stared at her. And then I continued to yell back at her while I stormed over to the nearest available ATM: "What? WHAT?! You couldn't open the goddamn door? You didn't see all of us with our cards? I showed you my goddamn card! Did you think I was a bank robber? Where in the HELL are your manners? Where are you FROM?"

(I love that "Where are you FROM?" question! It always gets people's goats!) :)

Her "snappy" comeback: "Where are YOU from?"
My "snappy" comeback: "From New York, where people have MANNERS!" (Honestly, I almost blurted out that I was from Texas, but that wouldn't have made any sort of sense in this case!)

While I was getting my money, she and I kept going back and forth, her saying, "You are unbelievable. It's unbelievable that you would expect me to open the door for you." And me yelling back, "YOU'RE unbelievable! You have no manners! You don't know how to act!" Two ladies in the line behind me tried calming me down, telling me not to pay attention to her... but I was still yelling at the bitch on my way out the door: "You don't know how to act! MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!"

Whew. Now, I'm 100% certain that I was in the right. (Half the time the cards don't work right away in the doors. Either they finally work, if no one's inside to open the door for you, on one's 10th swipe, or... SOMEONE INSIDE LETS YOU IN!!! Geez. I cannot stress enough: Someone always lets you in.) However: In this case, I completely lost my cool, I completely upset myself and was tense for the rest of the day (and in subsequent days, when thinking about the incident), and I completely failed to make her publicly back down and admit that she was a fucking rude idiot. (And then a very small part of me was wondering: Is she actually from out-of-town and doesn't understand the etiquette in this case??)

What would I do differently? Perhaps, upon entering the room, just SAY (rather than yell): "Why didn't you open the door for us?" And then, when she gave her "I don't open the door for Whitey" speech, just shut up and ignored her. Perhaps. But... it felt darn good to yell "What is your problem?!" Despite the tension I felt long afterwards...

Anyway, that whole unpleasant incident has hung around in my consciousness since the Eve of Christmas Eve. Until tonight. During my break at work, I went out to my bank's Times Square location to get cash out, had my card in my hand, ready to swipe... There was a young black guy just inside the door; he saw me with my card out, and, before I could swipe it, he... OPENED THE DOOR FOR ME!!! God. Thank you. THANK YOU. A tiny bit of regular human kindness and normalcy.

I'm not crazy. That woman was crazy!! :)

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