Well, except that I didn’t know I was being dissed. Or microaggressed. Or whatever it was when it happened to her.
Americans awoke this week to the news that someone once asked Mrs. Obama to help her get something off the top shelf at Target.
Apparently, this was evidence of racism.
I, too, have been asked to help people get things off the shelves before, although never, as far as I can recall, at Target.
Just a few months ago, an older lady riding a motorized cart around my local Wal-Mart asked me if I’d mind to get some frozen dinners for her from a top shelf in the frozen foods aisle. For whatever reason, I didn’t automatically think my status as a person was being demeaned. I just asked her which dinners she wanted.
Some years ago, a mom in the commissary at the Pearl Harbor naval base was in the same aisle I was, pushing a loaded cart and surrounded by kids, with one crying in a baby seat. I was in town for a few days on temporary duty, but didn’t have my uniform on. Instead, I was wearing civilian attire but had a lanyard with a security ID hanging around my neck. (Long story.) Perhaps I looked to her like an employee.
For some reason, heavy boxes of laundry detergent were arrayed on the top shelf. There’s no accounting for why the commissary does some of the things it does. Anyway, she was a Filipina and on the small side: she couldn’t reach them very well, and probably would have brought a box crashing down on her head or her kids if she had tried to. She asked me if I’d please get one of the boxes down for her.
Reader, I did.
Then there’s a situation I can hardly find a way to categorize. It seems to argue no more than classic gallantry on the part of the man involved. But he was a black man, so I may have been microaggressing him without knowing it.
This was also a few years ago, in a grocery store in Oklahoma City. I was trying to reach something on the top shelf, and although there were plenty of boxes of the item (it was oat bran, I think), there were none at the front of the shelf. They were lined up toward the back of the top shelf, where I had difficulty reaching them.
I had just gotten a toe-hold on the lowest shelf, and was pulling myself up to try to reach the boxes I wanted, when the tall young man came over and asked, with a smile, how many of those I needed. He got them down for me, I thanked him, and he went off to rejoin the lady he was shopping with.
Now you know the unexamined world of small human interactions I’ve been living in. I’m kind of at a loss as to what to say beyond that. Sometimes other people ask me to help them. Sometimes people help me.