Monday, April 28, 2008

I just wanted to go to the gym, not start a class war

I got shiny new running shoes over the weekend, in the exact same size and model as my old, beat-up, beat-out, beaten down, stained pair. I pulled the new ones out of the box this morning, and pulled the factory insoles out of them so I could put my trusty special custom orthotic/Spenco insole combo in. The custom orthotics are essential to my running life to make sure I don't get any more stupid shin splints/plantar fasciitis/Achilles tendonitis due to my stupid flat overpronating feet. The Spenco insoles add cushion on top of my rigid leather orthotics to prevent the most hideous arch blisters known to mankind. It took me MONTHS to come up with this combination, and I give due credit to Phil Fenty at Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan for suggesting I put the Spenco insoles on TOP of the orthotics. I was almost in tears over my blistered feet when I walked in to Fleet Feet, and I was ready to give up running. I could have kissed Phil Fenty, but that seemed undignified, since he's the mayor's dad and all.

But because I am a dumb ass, I forgot to put my orthotics/insoles into my new damn shoes before I left the house. So I got all ready to hike through the pouring rain to the gym at lunch and insoles in my shoes. This. Is. A. Problem. But never fear! CVS is here! Right across the street, on the way to the gym! I'll just buy some cheap insoles that I can use to work out today. Great!

I'm innocently browsing the "Foot Care" section at CVS in peace, and deeply pondering the relative merits of some "Sport Link Extreme" insoles when I am tapped on the shoulder. A 40-ish(?) skinny black guy sticks a laminated card with writing on it in front of me. I read it. To paraphrase: "I am deaf and I have a wife, an ex-wife and a girlfriend and eleventeen children to support and due to The Man and the inequalities of society in general I cannot work to support them and so I must ask kind strangers like you to give me cash to feed and clothe my destitute family so please give me money." I look the guy right in the eye, and I say politely,"I'm very sorry, but no. I don't give money to individuals." He immediately gets very hostile and starts waving his hands in the air and yelling something about "You white women are all alike! [Incomprehensible ranting] white women....all alike!" He continues to wave his hands and stomp around and wave his laminated card angrily at me and yell all the way down the aisles of the CVS and all the way out the door.

I just stood there blinking for a minute or so, because, jeez, man, I'm just shopping for some goddamn insoles here. You don't even know me, or anything about me. Because I'm a white woman shopping in CVS I should be your personal Social Services? Learn to take "no" for an answer, man, because your future panhandling/sales career is not going to get far with that attitude. And no, I don't know anything about you either, other than what's written on that card (which I, in my jaded city realism, am going to take with a grain of salt) and that you are rude and hostile. I only give money to close friends and family as wedding or birthday or holiday presents. Why on earth would I just hand money to you, someone I don't even know? You want to hang around while I explain why I don't give individuals money? Or what charities I do give money to in DC that feed people and clothe them and give them job training? Want the names of any of those organizations? No? You just want to yell at me and scare me and stereotype me? OK, then. Fine. I'll stereotype you as another aggressive panhandler who just wants a handout, and doesn't want to do anything to change his situation, and hey, we've really made impressive social progress here! Great.

I chose my goddamn insoles, realized I would have to cut them to fit the shoes, and decided to go back to my office to cut them and get a sandwich because I was ravenous, and it was pouring rain anyhow. So much for the gym - thank you, please try again later. With less verbal assault this time, please.


SickGirl said...

If this CVS was anywhere in Capitol Hill I know exactly who this guy is. The first night I was in DC he approached my friend and me, together, in the grocery store and then each of us separately. He has approached me in the CVS near my house. Once, when my roommate and I were returning from Baltimore well after midnight he approached us as we were getting out of the car (something which really makes me feel uneasy). The last time I saw him I was helping my neighbor move couches into her apartment and he approached us as we were CARRYING the couches.

Whenever we've explained that we don't have cash (i NEVER carry cash in the city) he gets angry and starts yelling at us. My neighbor is an ASL interpreter and has tried to talk to him in sign language and he won't respond. I hate to think the worst of people but everyone who knows who he is is convinced he is not actually deaf. You're not alone in your feelings of frustration- I, as well as all of my neighbors, completely understand.

Truth About It said...

You need to learn the sign for: "Why don't you try keeping it in your pants, asshole."

Shannon said...

Oh, my. Class warfare AND cheap insoles. What a day!

I haven't had too many problems with aggressive panhandlers in all my years in DC, but yeah, I think I've run into the deaf guy bit once or twice. I pretend to be deaf myself and gesticulate wildly so it looks like I'm talking in sign language.

Stingy stuck-up white girls unite!

Jonah K. Haslap said...

This story reminds me of a Golden Girls episode, as all the best stories do. Blanche meets a guy in a wheelchair, she feel conflicted about dating him, but then gives in and starts to like him. Then he tells her he's married, to which she responds, "it never occurred to me you could be just a jerk in a wheelchair."

Ah, Blanche. You are my inspiration. And my breasts are almost as big as hers.