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Suited To The Role

, , , , , , , , | Right | February 18, 2013

(I work the floor at an independently-owned menswear store. The owner, my boss, spends a lot of time at the shop, and tries to keep prices as low as possible to help our city’s large homeless population get good job interview clothes. A clearly homeless man is wandering around the store. The other patrons are giving him looks.)

Customer: “Excuse me, sir?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am?”

Customer: “I think you may want to call security. That… bum over there, he keeps feeling the suits and muttering to himself. I’m just sure he’s planning to steal one.”

Me: “Well, ma’am, I think that’s quite unlikely.”

Customer: “Oh, come on, you know how they are! I mean, I’d keep an eye on him even if he wasn’t homeless!”

(The homeless man in question happens to be Hispanic.)

Me: “We don’t discriminate here, ma’am.”

Customer: “Well, I’m sure the owner would want to hear about this!”

(I give in and call him over. The customer explains her concerns. As a black man, my boss isn’t happy with her racism, but agrees to talk to the homeless man.)

Owner: “Excuse me, sir, are you finding what you need?”

Homeless Man: “Well, not really. I’m hoping for something versatile in a dark or navy wool, but most of the options in my size are cut American style instead of European, which fits me a little better. Not to mention they’re all pinstriped, which I really don’t have the build for, you know?”

Owner: “I… yes, I understand. I think we may have some options over here, if you’ll follow me. How did you know all that?”

Homeless Man: “Back before I lost my job, I used to be really into this stuff. I’m not looking for anything fancy, just something I can use to look good for a job interview later today.”

(My boss helps him find something he likes, and comes to the counter with him. The suit is priced at $87.)

Homeless Man: *digging in his pockets* “Hang on, I think I’ve got enough.”

Owner: *to me* “Take my card. I’m buying it for him.” *to the homeless man* “Here. The suit’s yours, on one condition. After your interview today, you come back and apply for a job here, too. Got it?”

Homeless Man: “I… oh, my God, thank you. Thank you so much.”

(Two years later, that formerly-homeless man is my manager, and has a little girl with his new wife — the owner’s sister.)

The Deaf-initive Guide To Parenting

, , , , | Right | May 24, 2011

(I work at the disability services office at a major university. We have an open house event.)

Parent: “What sorts of services you offer for students with hearing impairments?”

Me: “Oh, lots. We have real-time captioners–”

Parent: “Oh, like on TV.”

Me: “Yeah, sort of. The captioner attends the class and types the captions in real-time.”

Parent: “Oh, cool. Well, my son’s hearing impairment is pretty mild, so I doubt he’ll need any of that. But I told him it’ll be important to hook up with your office because of extra funding and stuff. These days it’s all about the money, baby.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s true. There’s a certain amount of money available for students with disabilities. It can’t hurt to have him come see us. Feel free to have him email or call, and we’ll set him up with an appointment.”

Parent: “Oh, he won’t be needing that for a while. He’s only five. I’m just trying to get a jump on things.”


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Blind-siding Stereotypes

, , , , , | Right | May 23, 2011

(I work at a start-up company in a very small office space that used to be a window shades store. We occasionally get people knocking on the door looking for the old business. A gentleman knocks on the door and I talk to him.)

Me: “Hi, how can I help you?”

Customer: “I bought these blinds, and they don’t fit my window.”

Me: “Oh, you’re at the wrong place. That was the last tenant. This isn’t a shade store anymore.”

Customer: “Oh, but in the phone book this is listed.”

Me: “I know. He hasn’t updated it. We’re not a shade shop. I hope you get help with your problem.”

Customer: “Well, you might be able to help. You’re a woman. Women put up blinds a lot.”