Yesterday I had an experience that took my breath away. A friend and I went shopping at a national department store. We were looking for an item and stopped a clerk to inquire about the availability. As we patiently waited for her return, we discussed things like lunch and where we should stop next… When the clerk returned she informed us that the item was available only online. Then it happened. She turned and stated clearly that “if we wanted to check for any other items we find the prices at the Heil Hitler kiosk.” My mouth dropped open. I looked at my friend and she looked at me. We were beyond speechless. I asked her if she heard what I heard. Yep. She heard it as clearly as I had. The thing was this woman said it as if it was just a figure of speech, the way you’d say “fly by night” or “new-fangled”. As my head spun and my stomach churned I just wanted to leave the area as quickly as possible. Sadly I couldn’t out run the soul sickness I was feeling. I could only think of my grandmother, a little Jewish lady. She would have immediately responded to the outrage. She would have slapped the woman’s face so hard it would have sent her into the last century. She would have sent up a hew and cry that would have woken the dead. She would have had the clerk’s head on a pike. She lost relatives in the Holocaust. My cousin lives in Israel and is an Orthodox Jew.
I decided action was required. I had been so taken aback that I hadn’t gotten the clerk’s name. We circled back to housewares trying to figure out a way to get her name. Divine intervention occurred when I kicked something that went skidding across the floor. It was a name tag for Taylor. Picking it up I was able to return it to a woman working with the mystery clerk; her name was Becky. At the customer service desk I spoke with a manager and expressed my outrage and shock. I let her know that Becky needed some serious sensitivity training and possibly be moved to a job that had zero contact with customers. The manager was shocked and assured me that the situation would be addressed.
My friend realized that the clerk in question looked familiar, but she was a school teacher for 35 years so everyone looks familiar to her! But once we had her name it all clicked – she was someone from the neighborhood where my husband and her husband had grown up. They had all gone to school together… I’m still confused by her flippant use of a phrase that is so loaded with negative connotations. Was she trying to send a message? Did she really have no clue? Was she announcing her affiliations? Trying to recruit us?
What is the world coming to? Is this a harbinger of things to come?