Let me tell you something about middle schoolers and their behavior when you trip up the stairs while several of them are in the hallway: they will laugh first and then ask if you're okay later. On Friday, I had my hands full as I walked up the stairway to do the morning announcements in the video production room we have. I had just seen a teacher parking her car the same time I was and noted that she had two cups of coffee from Starbucks.
"Hey, you need TWO cups to get through a Friday?" I asked her.
"No! I stop in there every Friday and they offered me a free one since I told them I'm a teacher. Want it?" she replied, smiling at me.
"Sure. Who am I to turn down free coffee?"
I say all that to note that I was walking up the stairs with an extra thing in my hands that I don't normally have: coffee. Usually, I make a cup in my office once I get a chance to brew some.
All of that was to say that I banged my thigh up pretty good and have an enormous bruise on it and it's actually bruised on the bone so I have continued limping throughout the weekend. However, good painkillers are a godsend so I'm feeling pretty loopy right now.
This afternoon, The Cuban asked if I was well enough to make a trip to the store since I'm having my annual Christmas Cookie Party next weekend with a bunch of teacher friends. We do this every year and get all our baking done in one weekend. It's a great time to catch up with one another (I'm at another school now and a few of them have scattered elsewhere, too) and sip wine and work with sugar for an afternoon. I decided that I could hobble through the store and mostly leaned on the shopping cart as we piled sugar and flour and butter into the cart.
When we got to the checkout we did that thing where we searched for the shortest line. Everyone does that and it's then that we began to pay attention to how full the carts are of the people in front of us. As we slowly walked past the cashier stations we saw a White couple in front of us move into a line, look up at the cashier standing there, and back out of it. I looked down again and didn't notice what they noticed in front of us: the cashier was a young, Black male with tattoos covering his arms.
The Cuban noticed it first and leaned over to whisper, "Did you see that? They don't want him to wait on them because he's Black. Are you KIDDING me? What's the matter with people?"
He was furious and watched the couple move to another line that had 2 people in it. They decided that THEY'D RATHER STAND IN A FULLER LINE than to have him wait on them. I just rolled my eyes and thought about the number of times I've seen crap like that before. It's gross and disgusting.
However, we moved right into the line and he smiled at us as he started moving our food down the belt to scan our items.
"Hi!" I said enthusiastically.
"Hello, ma'am," he responded.
"We got all the fixings for cookies now," I engaged him.
"Yes, ma'am, you sure did," he said.
I noticed how polite he was. He kept responding with "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am" throughout our entire transaction. While he helped us, I glared at the couple in the next line and shook my head at them. People are so stupid and here it was once again. That young checkout cashier, named Chris, couldn't have been any kinder. In fact, his voice reminded me so much of my recently deceased nephew that I started crying right there in the checkout line. I couldn't feel the pain in my leg anymore and stood up straight to talk with him. Quickly, I stopped my tears and turned around so he wouldn't see me crying. The Cuban finished up our transaction and paid for the groceries.
"You know, I should bring you some of these cookies I'm baking next weekend," I said.
"Ok," he teased me. "I'll be expecting them."
He should. I'll be taking some to him. Because even though he didn't see it happen and missed an ugly witnessing to life and couldn't see something which would have surely left an indelible bruise on him, we saw it. We watched it and didn't say anything to that ignorant couple because we wanted to be nice to a stranger instead.
He'll get the cookies, but mostly because he reminded me of my nephew and he got to see plenty of that kind of ignorance when he was alive. More than I want this stranger, Chris, to ever have to witness.