I don’t like screaming the r word, I really don’t. I like giving people the benefit of the doubt, I swear! I don’t want to be seen as the Cassandra that is cursed so that no one listens to her warnings. I understand that people get tired of talking about it…but that’s complacency you know. It is just an excuse for complacency.
Anyway, I was downtown last afternoon, more specifically in the Pearl District (see: Gentrification Vs. Development) waiting for an interview at an art college when I decided to kill some time while I waited by going into Sur La Table. This place is a hoity-toity kitchenware store right across from Powell’s books, catering mostly to upper-echelon foodies and culinary hobbyists. They even have cooking classes. There only other location in the area is in Lake Oswego. Should have been my first warning, right? Mistake No.1.
Whatever. I’m dumb like that.
I walked in and was immediately but passively accosted by the phenomenon I (not so) fondly refer to as “Shopping While Black”, or SWB. This is related to the phenomenon known as Driving While Black. Basically, when one walks into a “finer” shopping establishment and does not fit the nice-rich-White- lady/gentleman stereotype, one is subject to this phenomenon. It can manifest as employees following you around the store, being overeager to direct you to a particular section of the store (clearance, for instance), positioning themselves between you and the exit or even telling you that they don’t carry “those kinds of items here.” Yeah, I’ve heard that before too.
So at Sur La Table, the second I walk in, a blonde NWL comes right up to me to ask if I can be helped with anything. Normally I just say no, but this time I asked about frying pans (Mistake No. 2) and she directed me to said section, and explicitly pointed out the two-for-one deal. As if. She hovers a bit, till finally I kindly and passively let her know that I’m just browsing and she can fuck of somewhere else. I’ve already been subjected to two examples of SWB, but then I notice immediately that she wanders away to the end of the display case-created “hall” where she positions herself in the way of main exit, pretending not to be watching me. Right. Like I don’t know what she’s doing. Loss prevention my ass.
At this point I am pissed off and definitely not going to buy their overpriced Scandinavian cookware. I walk around from the pans, wipe my hands on a few baking trays out of spite and then continue around to the main exit so as to not walk by this NWL. She, of course, pops out from her completely obvious station as Guarder Against the Poor in Our Store (did that make you chuckle?) and wishes me a nice day.
I didn’t even look at her. Bitch.
Normally I get over occurrences of SWB after a few hours and a few cigarettes. I woke up however, a day later, still pissed off. I ranted on the phone to my mother about it, who has resigned herself already to the fact that this isn’t ever going to change. She suggested dressing up super nice and just trying to interact with the same employee to teach her a lesson. I, in turn, wanted to call up rant at the manager, lie and say that I was a relative of Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) because, 1) being half-Jewish I decided that we were related and 2) that she would never support Sur La Table again after I related this experience to her.
In the end, this being untrue and probably unhelpful to my blood pressure and karmic state, I decided to just give them a nasty YELP review and write this blog.