What do you know about Charles Bukowski?
We explored DVD interviews and documentaries, books, poetry collections. Ready to check out. Dismal when it comes to those plastic thingies that some machine that looks like a throwback to the Middle Ages removes for the unsuspecting library member; therefore I get in line, rather than self check-out. It’s been a long few days, from November 8, Tuesday, until now, Sunday, November 13. It seems like years. Lack of sleep, active campaigning on several fronts, the Tule Fog descending over my mind and heart, being stuck in the middle of fight-flight with no energy remaining to make a coherent decision.
Wow, look at this! New member with application in hand in front of me and behind me, and behind that young mom with her two bright children, another man. Three new members on a Sunday afternoon!
Great conversation with the young gentleman of approximately 8 years about the woman at the check-out counter with a large stack of picture books and DVDs. He thought she was maybe a teacher and asked what I thought. I told him I was a writer, so I look at a person in a situation and try to imagine what they’re doing. My guess was that perhaps she had a sick child at home, and she was bringing him/her some entertainment. He solemnly gazed at her and agreed that that was a good guess. He asked me why I was in line, and I told him I wasn’t very good with the plastic thingies on the DVDs. He nodded. I told him and his little sister that they would really like the Childrens’ Programs at the library. Their mother was interested in all the programs offered at our library, which for the 5th year was rated among the highest in the nation. I expressed that I was quite proud to be a volunteer.
Behind the last new member was a neatly-dressed woman who was grumbling somewhere in the background of the conversation. She expressed her displeasure with the amount of time check-out was taking, and stated that there should be one checker just for the new members. I mentioned that she could self-check, but her reply was that her books were overdue. We all smiled indulgently. Stepping out of line, she grumbled her way up to the counter. Now at two hours to closing on a Sunday afternoon, there wasn’t a plethora of check-out assistants, and she came back in line quite agitated. “I can’t believe that people would come in here on a Sunday afternoon to join the library,” she huffed. Wanting to diffuse the situation and feeling protective of our new members, I replied, softly,
We don’t behave that way in our city. Particularly, we encourage our new friends here at the library.
Her reply was one I could never have anticipated:
“I can’t wait for Trump to take care of your kind.” She spat that out, loudly.
There was a line of open-mouthed patrons, to say the least. Sensing the lack of control, I immediately locked eye-contact with her and advised her that she should dial it back or I was going to call security. I said it quietly, slowly and firmly. She shut up.
After I checked out, I went out to the patio for my meeting time with a Texas librarian with whom I had become friendly. We discussed the situation, but particularly, what “your kind” could mean. As some backstory, I was born and raised in a white, Catholic and Protestant town, and didn’t interact with multiple faiths, ethnicities, races, and sexual orientations until I went to UCLA as a high school junior. It was a rich experience, and continues to this day. I have stood beside my Jewish friends when dissed, my Muslim friends when shunned, and my black and Hispanic friends when put upon. I was bullied only once, in fourth grade when I had just gotten my first pair of glasses. It was a boy on the playground who called me Four Eyes – I retorted that my four eyes were four times as likely to spot anything than his obviously blind perspective…or something to that effect. Now I was “your kind”.
The Tule Fog lifted as quickly as it had descended. My thinking and my loving returned, and I was, instead of being enraged, curiously pleased that I finally understood what my friends had been, and were still enduring.
I don’t know what set her off. Maybe it was the safety pin I was wearing. Maybe it was envy of my city. I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care. Hate, like bile rising from an upset stomach, has been offered a voice since the election. And it is everywhere, in people I never would have suspected – people I shop next to, in book discussions, on the bus, in the family. It was always there. It now has been given a voice.
I Am Your Kind. I Am About Love And Kindness. I Will Endure.