Feast your eyes upon a real situation that actually happened recently and occurs often enough for me to notice. Like, way too often. I’m talking about that thing – the mistake of assumptions. And you know what happens with assumptions, right? Nobody likes to be an ass. Or umptions.
I was at a popular toy store buying the Dinosaur some things she needs (and other things that she doesn’t) when I decided to buy myself a video game. I used to be big into World of Warcraft. Back when I had time. And money. And didn’t need to go to bed at 9:30 … I was in need of some serious #nerdcare. Raising a tiny Dinosaur is not easy. Then, poof! The mythical store employee with the magical case key appeared before me. My wishes had been granted! I said that I wanted to buy a game. We walked all the way across the store to the sparkly display of games behind glass, when the store employee began talking to a random little dude looking at some stuff on a nearby shelf.
It hit me in slow motion … the store employee believed the little dude to be my kid. The store employee was asking questions about my game to a confused but ridiculously polite little dude who kept looking over at me like, “Uh, I thought it was your turn?” The store employee didn’t think the game was for me.
It was wicked awkward. I had to grab the store employee’s attention (I learned later that he was actually the manager) and explain that I was the one who was asking for the game, and not the kid. The kid looked so confused by everything. The manager looked confused by everything. I just wanted to get my game so that I could veg out for maybe twenty minutes in between Alice falling asleep and Alice waking back up again. I didn’t want to deal with this crap.
Now, to be completely fair, the store manager looked like he was having a super rough day. He was shorthanded and rushing all over the place. But this type of thing happens to me a lot. There are stores that I no longer go to because they ignore me or talk down to me when I ask questions. They assume that I’m buying for a friend. There have been times when I ask a question and the answer is directed at my husband rather than to me. Or, (apparently in this case) the control goes to the nearest completely unrelated little boy, who was totally awesome by the way. He wanted to make sure that I was helped first because I was there first. Kids are awesome.
I went to a local music store to get supplies for my guitar and to ask about repairs on a guitar that my husband bought years ago but never learned how to play. I asked a question and was redirected to wait. That same store employee then went and helped another person. Cool. Then they helped the next dude that just walked in the door. Okay. Then they did it again, cheerfully greeting people and forgetting about me. I eventually got someone to take me seriously and they asked if my boyfriend was the guitarist.
I was in a video game store asking about the release date of the next World of Warcraft expansion that I was excited to play. The guy behind the counter said something to the effect of, “All the girls who play WoW are ‘guys in real life.'” I frowned and left.
I was at work talking about how I had recently learned how to pick locks at my local makerspace and that I had found it an interesting and informative process. A guy that I worked with looked at me funny. I described all the things that I had learned. The guy then proceeded to explain to me how a lock works and how to pick a lock – literally what I had just told him, only using different words.
Years ago, I managed a game store selling board games and card games. I loved that job and did it for ten years. A guy came in one day and scoffed when I asked if I could help him find something. “YOU wouldn’t know ANYTHING about what I’m looking for. Just tell me where the D&D stuff is.” I brought him to the role-playing section and calmly explained which of the supplements were my personal favorites and why. I then told him that Dungeons and Dragons was fun, but if he wanted to branch out a bit, I could tell him about any of the sixty-five other role-playing games I had played. His jaw hit the floor and his face went red. He hung around for about twenty minutes and then left without buying the book he had been looking for which was right there on the shelf.
I’ve had people not want to play games with me because I “didn’t look like I knew what I was doing.” At a Magic: The Gathering tournament, I had an opponent call rules violations on me constantly, only to be told by the judge that what I was doing was perfectly legal every time he cried foul. I think that he was mad that I was beating him up with his own stompy green-red creatures with my blue-black control deck.
Any one of these instances could have occurred because someone was having a bad day. People have bad days and say stupid things that they don’t mean all the time. Giving the benefit of the doubt doesn’t change how it makes me feel invisible every single time that it happens. Because it happens often enough for me to notice. It happens so regularly that I have “safe stores” where I know I’m going to be treated fairly and like a human being. In my experience, it’s a common mistake. But in a new and progressive world, maybe all this stupidity will fade into the sunset. Maybe the Dinosaur won’t have the same experiences that I do.