Race and Rudeness

meanIt happened yesterday at the car wash: an unpleasant encounter.

Oddly, the incident involved an employee, the guy who scrubs up your car as you enter and dries it off as you exit.

I don’t normally use this car wash, because gas is more expensive at the adjoining gas station. But, I thought I would support the local business, rather than drive a few miles for the cheaper gas.

I purchased the car wash at the pump and got in line, watching as the car wash guy punched in the code for the guy in front of me and scrubbed up his car. I waited as the car went through the car wash and the guy dried it off.

This car wash was a new experience for me, but as far as I could tell, the procedure was to wait for the guy, since that is the way he treated the guy on front of me.

After waiting quite a while, the car wash guy came back, yelling at me in broken English to hurry up because he wanted to go home. Then he vanished. He did not punch in the code or scrub up my car, like he did for the guy in front of me.

I thought, at least he will dry it off, as I began to reconsider my $5.00 tip. However, as I exited, he was no where in sight. Needless to say, he did not receive a tip, since my only encounter was him yelling at me.

Out of curiosity, I circled back around through the gas station parking lot to see how he treated the next guy. He was punching in his code.

What a jerk! I was pissed.

When I got home, I called the station. Only, their number was listed incorrectly on every location I could find on the Internet.

I could launch into a rant about customer service being laughable, but, I have done that so many times already. 

There are two things I am struggling with, though.

How big of a deal should I make out of it? Should I stop and talk to the manager, or let it go? Will the manager even care? What is the more Jesus-like thing to do?

My conclusion is that I should talk to the manager, assuming that he expects more of his employees than being rude to customers. Ultimately, I would be doing the car wash guy and the manager a favor. Of course, I need to let it go of the whole indignation.

There is something else about the incident that is even more troubling. The car wash guy was Mexican. Honestly, it is hard not to take his behavior and apply to every person who has come here from South of the border.

I don’t have many run-ins with jerks, but not long ago, I had one with a black man. In line at Wal-Mart, his small child was goofing around like kids do. She was about to bump into my cart, which didn’t bother me, except I didn’t want her to hurt herself. I put out my hand out as a parental reflex to keep her from falling into the cart.

Her dad objected, saying I didn’t need to touch her, as tough I had the plague and his daughter was royalty. He definitely, seemed like he was looking for any excuse for a fight. I simply said, “Sorry.”

What goes on inside the mind of people who yell at customers or confront someone for protecting their child in an appropriate manner, is something I will never understand. Some people find it acceptable to be rude, mean, and confrontational for no real reason.

Are blacks or Hispanics more given to such behavior than whites? I don’t know. I am going to assume not and embrace the thing about people being people no matter where they are from or what they look like. However, I do know, that incidents form attitudes, and there is a tendency to think these run-ins are indicative of the behavior an entire group of people, rather than just attributing them to individuals.

It’s stereotyping and its wrong, but rather natural. You can see how it happens. I am the guy who is always raging against it, but after these back-to-back incidents I was feeling that way myself. I felt indignant because of the “injustices” I have endured. I also felt dirty for feeling like I was giving into the dark side. My conclusion was that I just happen to run into two bad apples close together who happened to be Mexican and black. Maybe, they weren’t bad apples. Maybe they were just having a bad day.

However, as sure as it is wrong to stereotype people, it is also wrong to fuel the fire (whether you are black or Baptist, Hispanic or Hindu, Anglo or Anglican) by violating societal standards that call for some degree of common kindness and respect.



About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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