Sunday, May 28, 2006

Supermarket Exchange

Yesterday, we went shopping.

As we approached the checkout queue, which was remarkably long for a Saturday afternoon, I picked up a hat sitting in one of those last-minute-impulse-buy-bins. I had no intention of purchasing it, but I have an almost obsessive habit of trying on every random hat I see - especially as I can do this nifty spin the hat and place it just *so* atop my head. Very glam Broadway - if only I was wearing the fishnet tights, tap dancing shoes and tailcoat to go with it. Unfortunately, I was only wearing trousers and a tee. Nevertheless, I caught the eye of one of the two Asian men who were last in the queue.

Suits you. He grins.

I grin back, pointing at the logo on the brim. Pity 'bout the advertising, hey?

He laughs, I laugh. My partner laughs.
His friend turns around and laughs too.
It is all very jolly.

We take our place behind the two men in the queue and natter away. I am half listening to their chatter: broad Aussie accents discussing the mountain bike ride they did last week. It strikes me as somewhat oneupmanship - I rode up this big hill and over these huge rocks last week. Oh Yeah? Well, the week before that, I rode up this huge hill, across a wide creek and careered down the other side bumping my way down giant boulders. I was amused. The conversation was entertaining - there's not that much better to do in a lengthy check-out queue than keep half an ear on your neighbours' conversations.

One of the store staff - a middle aged white woman - calls out: There's a check-out open over here! We are all too close to the front to move; so the store woman comes over and asks the woman - also white, also middle aged - in front of the two men to head over to the other check-out.

The first man turns back to my partner and me; his arms arc out dramatically and he says in a mocking stage whisper: That'd be right - she chooses Whitey. Just cos we're two Chinese boys. Bet she thinks we're trouble-makers. That's racist, man.

His buddy joins in the pantomine - innocent eyes wide and mock hurt rising, they move about in large gestures. We are laughing at, and with, them. We shake our heads in mock disapproval.

The storewoman comes back and says: Hey! You two causing trouble? She is shaking her permed hair at all of us and gestures towards another staff member, just opening another check-out. Come on, then! Imperiously she leads them to the newly opened check-out and the first man swings a friendly arm at her fleshy shoulders - Just joking hey? She is smiling and shaking her head at them. We're still laughing.

She looks over at us. Not with them? She says.

I have been smiling too much. I'm in too good a mood - after all, we've been having fun in a queue. I shake my head: No way!

When they leave we all call out: see ya! goodbye!

Being identified as Asian can be fun. We found buddies in a check-out line.

1 comment:

sume said...

That is cool, Oanh. I remember the first time I felt like a recognized and confirmed Asian. It happened in a grocery store, too.

An Asian guy was at the checkout and I was standing about five people (all white) behind him in line. He was looking around like he was looking for someone and made eye contact with me. He promptly left his place in line, walked all the way back to where I was standing. He said, "Hello, can I use your discount card. I forgot mine at home."

I gave it to him and he returned it with a grinning, "Thank you" Thinking to myself, I wondered out loud why he didn't just ask the people next to him in line. My daughter goes, "Because you're Asian mom. Duhh."

I have no idea if she was correct in her assumption, but I like to think so anyway. ;)

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