Years ago I went to the supermarket breakfast section and ordered toast and butter for fifty-cents. That day I was not particularly well groomed — in fact I was downright raunchy. I was a man in his seventies. My white beard was scraggly, my hair was unkempt, and I looked like I had dressed in a hurry in a burning house. But I was hungry and not concerned about what people thought.
I was into my second slice of toast when I sensed a female figure standing nearby. I lifted my eyes to behold a late middle-age woman with blue hair, nicely dressed. I squinted — thinking that she wanted to canvass me for a donation to some liberal cause–for which I have a dozen practiced reasons whereby I can sensibly decline. But this was not the case.
“Sir?” She said, before I could speak.
“Yes, Ma’am?” I squeaked.
She extended a frail hand which held a half-folded five dollar bill. “Sir, I give you this in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
I held back my embarrassed gasp and feigned humility — as I realized she had (mis)taken me for one of the homeless guys who begs at the intersection.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” I garbled, as I turned my eyes away and shyly took the bill.
“God bless you, Sir,” she said and quickly walked away.
“Goblusyoumam”, I mumbled to her quickly departing back.
I was both embarrassed and humbled. And I vowed that in the future I would spiff up before venturing down for breakfast. And it’s a good thing because I have since seen this good woman shopping with her grandchildren. I purposely avoid their glances, but it is doubtful that she would recognize me anyway because I have since lost the beard.
My experience with mis-identification has not always been benevolent, as I was once mistaken for a marital interloper and got slammed between the eyes as I exited the men’s room at a local club. I awoke with my tormentor applying wet toilet paper to my face and apologizing.
In a similar vein, Mr. Patel, who lives a block from me, is from India, and he works at WalMart five days a week. He is a diligent worker, and when at work, he wears a white shirt and pleated slacks. But at home he often prefers to drape himself in some variation of his native Hindu bedeckery. One day he wore it to the Chinese restaurant for lunch, and somebody called him a Muslim.
This morning at WalMart he told me about it and complained. I jokingly said he ought to wear a sign. His hot response produced a dab of spittle on his lip–which I did not understand and could not spell if I had.
There is a moral to this story: Don’t judge people by how they look. Judge them by how they vote.
– George Poleczech