No Matter How You Wrap it, Bigotry is no Secret

Last night when we came home from the movies, there were no guest parking spaces in our building. So I drove down to our parking space in the garage and parked the car there. As we were making our way to the elevator we came around the corner and saw the white luxury sedan that is always parked there, but at that moment someone was bent over the trunk getting something out.  I also noticed that  the trunk was full of beautiful, pink and red striped bags that looked like they were from Victoria’s Secret. The entire trunk was bulging with these bags.  And bent over the trunk was one of our neighbors whom I’ve seen coming and going in the elevators with his wife. I wouldn’t say anything unkind about this gentleman except that he does look like a B character from the Sopranos. He has little to no neck  and a strong Northern New Jersey accent. Sorry for my crude characterization.

We walked over to the elevators and I pushed the button and we stood waiting for the elevator to arrive as he finished doing whatever he was doing in the trunk with his Victoria’s Secret bags.

He then walked over and said “Man, these elevators are really slow.”

I said, cheerfully,  “Yes, today they do seem to be a little bit slow.”

The man with no neck looked angry and he sneered,  “You always have to wait. It’s because of the fucking chinks in this building. You wait for the elevators forever because they hold them for five minutes.”

I gasped, and was sure Jimmie hadn’t  heard what he said; I looked down and my response was flustered, cowardly and far short of appropriate, but I was shocked to my core by how casually and innocuously he had made this horrible comment; his assumption that such a bigoted statement would be welcomed by us was really nauseating.

Looking down, pretending to type something on my phone, I said, “huh.” That’s it. Just “huh” like I was considering his remark as a legitimate statement. I’m sure that’s how he interpreted it. The elevator soon arrived and we all stepped into it, my face bright red and me continuing to look down at my feet,  unable to meet anyone’s  eyes.

Fortunately when we reach the lobby level, he dashed off with his two Ralph’s bags. And I stopped Jimmie, tapping him on the arm and saying, “Did you HEAR what he said down there?”

I repeated it quietly so that no one would hear me. Jimmy’s face fell and soberly  we walked to the elevator which was thoughtfully being held for us by one of our Korean neighbors.

“Thank you,” I said, fully aware of the irony of the situation. We chatted briefly as we rode up and he disembarked a few floors short of ours after wishing each other a nice evening.

I’ve been in the elevator before with Mr. And Mrs. New Jersey when there was so much rage and rancor between them that the climate in the elevator was a good 30° colder than that in the lobby.  And now, unfortunately,  I know why.

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