I was walking home from the Western Beef on Monday, the time of course escaped me and it was earlier than I thought it was. As I was passing the Family Dollar, I thought it was a good idea to finally pick up something that I had been looking for which was Milk of Magnesia. I wanted it for 2 reasons; I’ve been having problems with my stomach for the last few months and I heard that using Milk of Magnesia can help clear up complexion problems like blackheads.
This Family Dollar had gone through a metamorphic change last year when it went from a crappy rundown little hole in the ground to a stylish brand new crappy hole in the ground with a freezer that doesn’t smell like dead rats. I’ve shopped there many times, ever since it was one of the first stores that opened up 10 years ago when the neighborhood started going through an urban renewal that transformed the old abandoned sanitation garages underneath the 3 line train track into ugly furniture and franchise stores. When I entered the store, it was almost a ghost town, with probably 2 or 3 customers wondering around. I scanned the store to see where the healthcare or bath products were located which was in the front of the store, isolated in its own U shaped area. While I was looking through the shelves, I noticed this little African man started buzzing around. I turned my head towards him and he suddenly started to “face” (To “face” is to straighten out the products on the shelves, place them correctly under/above the tags and remove what doesn’t belong) one of the shelves. That’s odd, I thought. With spider sense tingling, I went up to him because I needed to make him useful.
“Do you have any Milk of Magnesia?” I asked.
“Um… um, no… um, we sold out of it” he replied with this deer caught in the headlights expression.
“Okay, do you have anything similar?” I asked not letting up.
“Um… I don’t think so…”
He walked me over to the same area that I just left and pointed to an empty shelf, exclaiming that there was nothing available. However just below that empty shelf were bottles of Milk of Magnesia, so I pointed to products and asked: “What is that?” His facial expression was priceless. I picked up the bottle and walked away from him without another word. As I went around the store, picking up knick knacks here and there I noticed that the he would still wonder around. By the time I finished shopping the little African man was behind the counter with another employee figuring out facebook mobile. As the other employee rang me up, the African man asked me if I found everything I was looking for. I ignored him, thanked the lady for my changed and walked out of the store.
Shopping while black is nothing new to me. When I was a teenager going to school in lower Manhattan, I would shop at some of the stores in the area and I always got the feeling that someone was watching me. At a grocery store on East 14th street (I don’t remember the name since they long went out of business), I went to buy something to snack on and was detained by security. Of course they let me go, but I was so embarrassed that this man pulled me out of line and asked me to remove everything out of my pockets. I swore to myself that I would never go to that store again, no matter what and I kept true to my word on that.
Recently, when I went to Trader Joe’s in the city, looking to see if they might have certain herbs and spices that I can’t seem to find in the stores in my area. I went into my bag to get out my notebook that contained the shopping list when out of the blue one of the workers came up to me and asked me if I needed help. At first I thought that was really nice, I politely told him no and that I was okay and continued looking for stuff. About 2 minutes later another employee proceeded to do the same thing. I was in the middle of a crowded aisle with people gleefully snatching stuff off the shelves at a staggering pace (They have a lot of good healthy stuff there I recommend people check the place out) and this employee seemed to come directly to me and no one else. After the 3rd time, I felt like I was being singled out. I started to notice a security guard walking around me. Now there was a very diverse clientele shopping around there, but every time I moved around there was a security guard standing to the right or left of me or an employee smiling in my face asking me if I needed something.
Was it just paranoia? Probably. Was I being stalked? Who knows. I put everything back where I found them and walked out the store.