Story time, folks. This actually happened to me the other day and I still don’t know how to feel about it.
Over the weekend, I walked into Publix wearing a t-shirt I bought solely to get a shareholder stake in the winnings of a gambling goldfish on America’s number one sports podcast. I paid good money for this shirt, and have worn it many times in public without repercussion. This is not one of those times.
Let me back up – you see, a controversial figure (Donald Trump, maybe you’ve heard of him) defeated a lifelong political zombie this year in one of the wildest presidential elections our great country has ever witnessed. His campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again,” which bears a striking resemblance to the slogan of the unrelated but equally important Pardon My Take Grit Tour: “Make America Grit Again.” It’s hard to say who copied who here and I’m not going to speculate; the important thing for you to remember is that these slogans are nearly identical, save for a couple vowels. That’s important, because according to viral e-mails your uncle sent back in 2008-2009, the human mind doesn’t read every letter in a word by itself but rather the word as a whole.
I’m not a conspiracy theory guy but I am a connect-the-dots guy. Make a note of this explosive evidence gathered by your uncle as we move forward.
So there I was, minding my own business where shopping is a pleasure (allegedly). I gathered my groceries and dropped them on the checkout conveyor belt like Peyton Manning’s nuts on a trainer’s forehead. I faked a smile as I walked past my cart to meet the cashier and bagger, going one step further to ask both of them how they were doing; this isn’t a detail of their lives that I cared to know, but asking made me seem more human and I assumed that would grant me favor during this transaction. The bagger was a girl, probably in her early 20’s, and she smiled at me. “Your boy’s still got it,” I thought. That’s when it happened.
If you shop at Publix, you know you’re gonna get stuck talking to at least one or two people you want nothing to do with, and they’re usually the last two gatekeepers you need to go through before you can get the fuck out. The cashier and bagger are a dynamic duo of tandem manipulators, playing off your fears and insecurities as they talk about how much they enjoy the products you’re purchasing. You don’t need to know that they love dipping their tomato basil Sun Chips in buffalo chicken dip (wait, where the fuck do I find that), but they will tell you anyway. They’re people, just like you – that’s what they want you to believe, but considering the fact that real people don’t talk to each other in 2016, I’m not about to be suckered by these body snatchers and neither should you.
Now, back to me.
The bag girl’s smile turned to a little laugh as her head tilted downward to focus on handling the eighteen separate cans of dog food I bought like an idiot because they were on sale. “You and my dad would get along,” she said.
‘The fuck she mean?’ I thought. She pointed at my shirt. My dumbass followed up with, “oh, your dad listens to the podcast?” She smiled wide, looked back down – and shook her head.
I’ll admit, this is a stupid thing to say to someone, especially a stranger. Besides having a podcast of your own, is there anything more peak white than talking about podcasts with other people? Of course her dad doesn’t listen to Pardon My Take, I know the answer even before she opens her mouth. I’ve just blown my cover. She’s aware of my privilege and the rest of the conversation is going to be a fucking disaster.
“Actually, you’d get along better with my grandpa.”
Okay, I have become keenly aware that she has no idea what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m also aware of the sinking feeling in my stomach that confirms this about to be a bad experience. I am but a salmon, swimming upstream to meet the mouth of a hungry bear.
“Oh yeah?” I said, whatthefuckingly.
“Yeah, he actually voted for Tr-
I know what’s going on here – she thinks I’m wearing a Make America GREAT Again shirt because her brain skipped over the vowels and filled in the blanks, just like your uncle said she would. I’m now stuck in a conversation about politics with a grocery bagger, and I’m paralyzed with fear. This has ruined my day. She is still smiling.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” I said, referring to the election but also trying to mentally transport myself five minutes forward into the future where I’ll be saying exactly the same thing about this moment. She has ensnared me in tangled a web of lies; instead of going through the trouble of explaining how I’m an award-winning listener of Pardon My Take, which would have been ludicrous, I have instead opted to go along with her assumption that I’m in the basket of deplorables. I immediately regret this decision.
“Yeah, me too. My grandpa was saying all this stuff about how we might get blown up by Russia if Hillary had won.” She’s baiting me. I’m desperately flapping my fins away from her jaws.
“Yeah well we may still get blown up, you never know,” I proudly declare with a laugh that reeks of getmethefuckoutofhere.
“Yeah, you never know, I guess. I’m kind of worried for my mom, actually. She’s an immigr-
My prayers go unanswered.
My shirt has become untenable. I’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole to claw my way back out. It’s dark, and Hell is hot.
“She was born in Honduras – but she is here legally,” she says. One can only assume she believes I’m a future recruit for the mobile deportation squads. She hasn’t stopped smiling.
“Honduras? That’s cool.” I’m dead inside.
“Yeah, my dad is actually Mexican too, but he looks 100% white so it’s okay.”
Is she telling me it’s okay because she thinks that I think it’s not okay? Is she saying this because she assumes all Trump voters are violent racists? Does she also assume that because I’m wearing a Trump shirt, which I’m not, that I’m a violent racist? Is Ashton Kutcher hiding with a camera crew in the stockroom? Where is the nearest methadone clinic?
“Oh, okay,” I said.
That’s what I said to her statement that her dad looks 100% white so it doesn’t matter that he’s Mexican.
These words were uttered out loud.
At this point I’m no longer making eye contact with her, or anyone. I want to just cancel this transaction and leave, but if I do that she’ll assume I did so because I’m a textbook white supremacist who just found out a half Mexican, half Honduran girl with immigrant parents was touching my groceries. I’m out of options. I have no choice but to finish the drill.
Meanwhile, my receipt is still printing.
Bag girl has placed my items in the cart. She’s ready to push it to my car. She’s the captain now. “Where to?”
I’m now left with a decision – accept her offer to take the bags to my car and continue this conversation while simultaneously letting a person of color work free of charge for a physically capable young white dude (not to brag), or decline the offer and appear dismissive of people who aren’t like me which will only further reinforce her assumptions that I don’t want immigrant cooties on my purebred groceries. This is 127 Hours, and I’m ready to cut my god damn arm off.
“No, thanks” I say. Sophie, I’ve made my choice. “Appreciate it. Have a good day!”
“You too!” she says as I make my escape. Does she mean that? Does she really want me to have a good day? Do I deserve to have a good day after this? I have a sudden urge to stop breathing.
“Sir, do you want your receipt?”
The lesson here is, never assume someone listens to Pardon My Take. It may be the number one sports podcast on iTunes, and you may be able to become an award-winning listener by subscribing and downloading episodes for free, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re an idiot for wearing a shirt like this less than a month after Donald Trump won the White House and expecting people to get the joke. To call it a Jimbo would be an understatement.
p.s. – All apologies to this incredibly nice bag girl who thought she was talking to a scumbag. I take full responsibility for that.
p.p.s. – I will continue to wear my Make America Grit Again shirt in public, but only in places frequented by other people who share the same beliefs as I do about not talking to other people in public. Call me bigoted, but Publix is not one of those places.