Week 1: Wear out the Silence
It was around 11:30 when I left the house to head out into my world that is America this Friday 1-27-17. I was filled apprehension and excitement knowing I was putting myself in a position to come into debate, verbal assault, a measured discussion but hopefully not violence. It would be sort of like Facebook only in real life. Quite frankly that is not a good thing most of the time. Lots of conflict on the walls of F.B. these days. But I was psyched up and ready to meet America and hear its thoughts about this white man and his Black Lives Matter shirt.
So with my Black Lives Matter shirt wrapped tightly around my body. Mine is just a little more ‘snug’ than I would like – that reminds me I gotta get to the gym this afternoon. I’ll add that to the list; 1) Wear out the Silence 2) Wear out my abs 3) wear out the calories I ate for lunch. 4) Wear out my eyes at the movies tonight because it’s Friday!! But I digress. So I load up the car with some things I need to drop off at the school. I teach a couple of classes at the local Charter school Monday afternoons and I wanted to have my materials there and ready to go so I thought I’ll swing by and drop them off. About half way there my mind started thinking. “Wait, can I or should I walk into my school as a teacher with a Black Lives Matter shirt? What would the students say? What would the administration or the parents say?” Then my mind conformed what I already know. HELL YA! Why do you think I get the shirt in the first place? I WANT someone to say something. I wanna hear what people REALLY think face to face. So I ROCKED that shirt up and down the halls of the school, intentionally making two trips to my car for the materials even though I could have done it in one. Hoping, expecting, anticipating, that first comment, the ‘first contact’ if you will with others.
And while there were looks and many smiles there was no real engagement. So I am left with my only option of speculation or for me to imply what I think people might be thinking. Here is my best shot. My first encounter was with a teacher (one of two on staff with blond hair and blue eyes) who clearly saw my shirt and then looked me square in the eyes with a sort of solidarity but also a look of “better you than me” feeling. The next was a different teacher whose eyes said softly “You’re NOT serious are you?” All others either didn’t pay attention to the shirt or just didn’t see it. But no one voiced any obvious support or disagreement. So I went on to my next stop, THE MALL.
I walked in the main doors to the huge open atrium food court and proceeded to the Asian Food buffet for some rice, noodles and veggies. The man who helped me seemed a little shaken by my shirt. After taking my order he tried to serve me the wrong items, then he tripped as he handed my food to the cashier and after catching himself then knocked one of the serving spoons off the counter with a clang. I clearly made him nervous. However, something happened next that I thought was pretty cool. I ordered a 2 item combo which is $7.89 plus a large drink $1.79 for a total of $9.68 plus tax. The young lady at the register, who was Hispanic, charged me $6.60 total. I didn’t know it at the time but she was giving me the “people of solidarity” discount. After my meal I looked at the receipt and realized what she had done and went up to say something to her. She responded “Yeah, I just charged you for a half and half” but her manager was behind her and stepped into the conversation correcting her and saying the amount should have been more. He then said it was their “mistake” but there would not be any additional charge. The girl looked at me with eyes that said what she could not. “Thank you” they said “thank you for wearing the shirt and being white while you are doing it.” And they said, “Thank you FOR GETTING ME IN TROUBLE WITH MY MANAGER WTF!?” Next time I’ll know better and I will simply accept the support. Asian Express at the Bay Shore Mall ROCKS!
Next stop the auto parts store. I knew this one could be risky. Many of my conservative friends are car nuts and hang out at the auto parts store. So I was ready for some push back. But surprisingly it never came. I made my purchase and we talked for a minute about cars. There was no tone of voice or strange looks but there was a little awkward body language. It was just enough that I knew once I left, the first words out of this very nice young man’s mouth to his fellow workers would be “Holy S^%T, Did you see that guy’s shirt, WTF? What is he thinkin’?” But I felt nothing out of the ordinary about my experience except the usual great customer service I receive at Oreily Auto Parts. Next stop, THE GYM.
So I roll into the Gym at 3 PM on a beautiful sunny winter afternoon in the Pacific North West. What an amazing time of year. You just can’t get this color of green anywhere else. I am greeted by the “behind the counter” guy at the club. He takes my “mark of the beast” keychain to prove I am marked by the workout Anti-Christ. Lucky for me I am already “saved” so there is nothing they can really do to me that I am not about to do to myself in their workout torture chamber. So I get scanned in then I unzip my outer jacket revealing the billboard shirt that is my BLM statement. I await the gasps of disbelief and cries of despair as I stride confidently toward the free weight section of the club. What’s that I hear instead? A faint voice seemingly form an Adam Sandler movie “You can duit.” So with confidence I hit my workout hard. I have a series of 5 exercises, max weight, one set to failure. High Intensity. Between sets I walk across the club floor mainly to catch my breath and get some much needed H2O. I walk past the ab punishment room and the treadmills of terror. No one meets my gaze except one guy on his way out wearing a ‘Compton’ knit beanie. No words, just the universal man to man bro nod of acknowledgement. Peace my brother from a different mother, peace.
I did get some sympathetic looks (emphasis on the pathetic) from some of the girls. Not sure if they were supportive or pitying but they made eye contact nonetheless and some smiled politely. HEY that’s more than I get most weeks from the ladies wearing tight ‘spandexy’ workout clothes and earbuds, so I am soaking it in people! Believe me. So I finish off my ab torture routine maxing out the crunch machine again at a weight that I will not say because I do not want others to feel small. Let’s just say it was probably more than you weigh. So chew on that. Yah, my testosterone is pumping after my workout and it’s awesome!! I am PUMPED! After each of my HIT routines, I Iike to HIT the massage chair (see what I did there?) Today was special though. I approached the flatbed hot hydro massage lounge with seductive weariness and fell into the loving caress of the indentations of the surface. It gently cradles my buttocks and wraps my shoulders massaging away the pain with a sort of rough yet playful hot water pattern of ecstasy.
When we were done with our 10 minutes of mutual love I returned to the front counter and openly declared to the behind the counter girl that I believe hydro massage lounge #4 and I were now very close and may be forming a serous relationship. What I didn’t tell the behind the counter girl or the many other gym patrons now listening closely was that this hydro massage lounge is BLACK! Hear that DAD, she is BALCK! Wow where did THAT come from? Hmm. Need to bring that up with my therapist. Anyway, the girl takes my #4 token from me and looks at me like I am completely nuts. Then she reads my shirt “Black Lives Matter” she smiles in a way that says “Please just go away quietly and don’t speak to me anymore… please” So I smile and bid farewell to my friends and lovers at Planet Fitness Bay Shore Mall. See you all again next week. Get used to it people EVERY FRIDAY you get to deal with me. The shirt next week will be “I can’t Breathe.” Next stop THE MOVIES.
There I was, standing in the queue or the “rope maze” as I like to call it. If you’re not careful you can get lost waiting in line at the theater and possibly have to face a Minotaur before you can buy your tickets or get snacks and drinks. I scanned the crowd of eager Friday night movie goers for anyone who was looking my way. Seeing if anyone would notice the shirt and make eye contact. I know eye contact is the bane of our modern society. Non-the-less, one man standing just to my left did peek at the shirt and looked me up and down but decided to remain silent. (Full disclosure, I am approx. 6’6” tall and 300 lbs.) maybe he thought better of engaging, who can say.
Once I knew I survived the movie maze of madness and reached the counter unscathed I did notice the woman who was waiting on me seemed EXTRA nice and unusually chatty. It could have been that she was just feelin’ good on a Friday night but from all the people I have known who have worked at a movie theatre I doubt it. My favorite part was when she swiped my rewards card and told me that she was going to “upgrade” my purchase. For a moment I envisioned a truly first class viewing experience with reclining padded heated massage chairs with speakers and sub-woofer right beneath my, ahem “sub-woofer” (if you know what I mean) and a dinner menu with pasta, pizza, Asian cuisine and sushi. But instead she just meant I could get some candy for $2.50 instead of the usual low rate fixed loan at 3.13% for the candy which I could then pay back in installments over the next 6 months. Oh AND I had earned a free unrestricted ticket. So tonight I was seeing a first run movie on its premier weekend for FREE. That’s right people I am a Visual Veloci-VIP. Mic Drop!
So I get my snacks and FREE ticket and head to the theater. I knew at this point that my chances of anyone seeing the shirt were pretty much over since it was dark and we were all facing the same direction, so I got comfortable and enjoyed the movie. Let me tell you a little bit about the film. It opens with Washington D.C. in ruins. The Capitol building, White house and Washington monument are destroyed beyond repair and the world has come to an end except for a small contingent of people who have held on facing unbelievable odds against their survival. A madman has seized power and is trying literally to destroy the world which will then be rebooted and populated with the uber wealthy all of whom lye safely in cryo-stasis in a secure underground facility only to be awoken after all of humanity has been extinguished to pave the way for them to rise and repopulate the planet making it over in their own image. Wait, I’m sorry, that was just the twitter and facebook feed I was reading on my phone before the movie. And Resident Evil Part 6 was a greed motivated apocalypse too.
So after the action fest of death and horror. By this I mean the movie. I made my way to the lobby – by the way for fans of the Resident Evil franchise you MUST stay ALLLLLLLL the way to the VERY, very end of the credits. Worth it. So I walk out to the lobby. And the theater manager walks past in front of me eying my shirt. I then see a woman looking at my shirt and she starts walking toward me. The theater manager stops and turns to her and asks her if everything is ok. Yes seriously he did this. The woman looks at him and says everything is fine and I walk past. Interesting yes? As I round the corner passing the concession counter I see 2 black ladies ordering their food and one spots me and turns to her friend and makes a gesture I cannot see. I imagine she says “Ooo-Ooo look, another white man with a shirt he doesn’t understand. Man WHITE people are CRAZY!” Neither of them say anything to me but I think to myself. “You ladies have a good time at the movies, my work is done here” Exit. Next stop, HOME.