If You Wouldn’t Say It To Their Face, Don’t Say It Near Their Ears

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: fuzzyone06 | June 13, 2021

In 2008, I was a young, intrepid stock person at a big box all-purpose store. I had a working knowledge of where pretty much everything was in the store because I was all over the place, but the grocery department had its own stock team specifically, so I wasn’t as knowledgeable there.

I am of Lebanese descent, and I was working in south Florida at the time. For those that don’t know, south Florida has a significant Cuban population, but not so much Middle Eastern folks. I got confused for Cuban all the time because I had the darker skin tone similar to a lot of Cuban folks. I also speak fluent English, Arabic, and French, but I was born and raised in the Midwest, so my accent gives no indication that I might be of Middle Eastern heritage.

On this fine afternoon, I was wheeling an empty tub back to the stock room after having emptied out one department over. Walking through the main aisle next to grocery, I heard an “EXCUSE ME!” It was not rude but definitely not polite, either. I turned to find a woman in a really fancy hijab and jewelry standing there with her husband.

Me: “How can I help you, miss?”

Customer: “I’m looking for [specific item] but I can’t find it.”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m not as familiar with the grocery section so I’m not sure where that is. Let me grab one of my colleagues for you. One moment.”

I could see one of the other customer service guys in the grocery section, so I radioed him to come over and help her out.

Me: “He’ll be with you shortly, miss.”

Customer: *Tersely* “Thank you, but I’m in a hurry. I thought you worked here and knew your store.”

Me: “I’m sorry, miss, I don’t really work in this section. [Colleague] is coming right down the aisle now.”

Customer: *To her husband, in Arabic* “They always get these stupid kids to work in these places, but they don’t know how to do their job. This fatso doesn’t know his head from his a**.”

The husband gave the woman a look, probably because he saw my expression turn from my customer service smile to a frown. I was having an internal debate about what to do next when her husband spoke.

Customer’s Husband: *In Arabic* “Stop talking. I think he understood what you said.”

Customer: *In Arabic* “Of course he didn’t. He’s an idiot. He doesn’t know his hands from his feet.”

It’s an Arabic idiom that doesn’t translate well.

Me: *In Arabic* “Actually, I understood every word you said. I don’t appreciate being called fat and stupid. An older lady like you should know better than to insult people trying to help you. Worse, you wear your hijab like a hypocrite, pretending to be devout, yet you abuse your perceived social lessers? You should have some respect for yourself.”

The woman looked like she had been hit by a truck. Her olive skin turned ghost white, and she sputtered at me.

Customer: “You… you speak Arabic?”

Me: *In Arabic* “Obviously, I do. Maybe next time you’ll think before you insult people who help you when you think they can’t understand.”

The woman grabbed her husband’s arm and dragged him out of the store, completely mortified. I could hear her husband yelling at her in Arabic that he’d warned her not to be a b**** all the time, especially when she doesn’t know who understands her. I wasn’t personally that offended, but I won’t deny that it was satisfying to scare some sense into her.


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