I winked at someone last night. It was harmless. Nothing will come of it, except, you know, the obvious. The trap.
Going to Staples at 9:30pm on a Wednesday is hardly what I would call a good time, but there I was, selecting binders and 3-hole paper for a project that was just assigned to me – due the next morning after having had languished on my boss’ desk for weeks. I needed CDs, too. I hate shopping for any kind of technology, the choices are overwhelming, and my ignorance, mired in a lack of interest, leaves me wide-eyed and slack-jawed in the aisles.
He came to my assistance unbidden. When I feel like a moron I typically like to be left alone but there he was, a diminutive man asking me if I needed read/write or read only and then nodding professionally as he handed me a stack of CDs. My problem was solved, my angst alleviated, and then he was gone.
I paid for my supplies and walked out of the store, pausing when I got to the sidewalk. “I’ll send a letter to his manager,” I thought. “Service like that deserves to be acknowledged.” I turned and went back into the store. I took a cursory walk thru the aisles but my hero was nowhere to be found. I returned to the cashier. “There’s a man who helped me in the technology section,” I said. “Do you know his name?”
“Was he Hispanic?” she asked. The question gave me pause. Was that racist? Was the fact that she was black make it un-racist? Did my being Caucasian make me racist? I pulled myself together. “Yes, he was,” I said. “And very friendly.”
“That’s Rubin,” she said. “Wait, was he wearing a shirt like mine?” she tugged on the hem of her red shirt.
“Yes, he was,” I said. “He’s not a tall man… I’m going to send a note to the manager, to tell him how helpful Rubin was,” I said, as I grinned and winked.
That’s how it happened. That was the wink. And now I have to live with the consequences of that wink, the certainty that I’ve set into play a stream of winks that will plague me until it’s replaced by some other involuntary twitch – maybe the horrendous thumbs-up or the damning finger gun with the corner of the mouth ‘chitk-chitk’. The good habit of thanking people for commendable service has let loose the bad habit of asinine gestures and verbal emissions. It’s not fair that it took years to develop the good habit and mere moments to unleash the bad. Moreover, it’s not fair to the Rubins of the world. I simply can’t afford to be trapped like this. It’s just not worth it to be appreciative.