Race Carded

“You can't blame a nigger for being a nigger, no more than you can blame a dog for being a dog.”

- Freddy Lee Cobb
Yesterday I got carded at my corner beer store, the Corner Store.

I've been going there for six years. It's a community thing. Our place, you know? Right up the street, two blocks. But, there was a new guy working there yesterday. I've seen him there before, but only once. Older guy. Whiter guy. The people who normally work there are the Indian owner and two other foreign fellows. Gentlemen of class and dignity.

I'm always welcome at the Corner Store. Often welcomed by name, and always by friendly, familiar greeting. Treats for the child. Offers for me to make suggestions about what good beers to stock. Discounts on quantity purchases. Chit-chat about the county regulations with regard to ordering and stocking. Comfortable upscale shit.

But, the new guy -- older guy, whiter guy -- got nervous. Even though I walked in with a friendly "hello" as I always do, even thought I walked in with purpose and in a deliberate non-threatening manner. I had a cup of Starbucks coffee in my hand.

I could see it though, from the corner of my eye. I could see it in how he looked up; big-eyed, cautious and with a very rigid posture. I could tell that he wasn't comfortable. I walked straight back to the import/microbrew section and began my quick search without a word and there he was within seconds ostensibly offering to help me. Although he didn't say a word, I knew the type of help he was offering. He probably wanted to help me not steal anything. The other guys that work there? They don't follow me around. We talk. It's all...good. It's "Mr. Hardaway" this and "Ty" that...easy, genuinely friendly shit.
“I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.”

- Muhammad Ali
So, I get my six-soldier carry-pack of Flying Dog porter ("good beer -- no shit") and walk to the counter. In fact, I beat him to the counter because I wasn't waiting around for him to help me not steal shit (which I wasn't planning on doing, by the way). He gets there and pauses. He asks, "Are you 21?" I say, "No, I am not 21. I am 42." He asks to see my ID. Well, if it wasn't for my New Year's resolution I would have given him some serious business about that. Lawfully you are required to pull ID on people who look under 30. I look over 30. This I know. ID? Are you kidding?

So out comes my Maryland drivers a mope. My new helper offers, after careful examination, that I looked younger than my age and that he "has to check." I had to ask for a bag. It's like TSA at the fucking airport, man. I paid with a credit card and scribbled something to represent my signature. As I was waiting to pay, I was looking at the local Town Crier newspaper. Nervously, my helper informed me that I could take it with me. I let him know that I already had one, delivered to my home. Down the block.

I almost reminded this gent that the last time he was there and I came in he followed me around the wine section and I had to tell him that I didn't need help, actually shoo him away 'cuz he was bugging me. But, I didn't. I wanted to though. I wanted to ask him what was he doing. I wanted to shout, "Boo!" I wanted to tell him that I was grown ass man. I wanted to tell him to kiss my ass. But, I didn't because I'm all nice and shit now; about that shit. Oh, I felt shitty about being helped, but what the heck can I do? I'm just another thieving young black trying to either steal something or buy something illegally.

“Shut up! 50 years ago we’d have you hanging upside down with a fucking fork up your ass!”

- Michael Richards
Older. Whiter. Helper.