This is the story of my life; one that has been a little burdensome at times. No, its not like I get mistaken for someone famous like Matt Damon…. though there was that one time - it’s the nose (and I think it’s more like the ripped Jason Borne version of MD than some of the other characters he’s played). Unfortunately, I get mistaken for retail workers. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m wearing, if I’m in a store, someone is going to ask me for assistance. Chris loves it when this happens. I could be in Target - where the employees wear red shirts and khaki pants – sporting black pants and a blue button down shirt and tie, and someone will ask me if I can check the stock on something in the back. “Sorry, I don’t work here.” is my normal response if it’s something along this nature. If they ask me where something is, and I actually know, I’ll point them in the right direction. If it’s someone older and they ask me what the price of something is, I’ll either go to the price scanner for them, or go to a register and ask a real employee for the information. I’ve been to weddings where I’ve taken off my jacket during the reception and would be headed to the bar or to the bathroom and someone will mistake me for a waiter. If I’ve had enough drinks, I’ll play along; once I cleared a table’s plates and walked them into the kitchen and another time I went and got a pitcher of water and filled someone’s glass. When they find out that I’m a guest like them, they’re mortified.
I’ve been in department stores wearing shorts and a t-shirt and have been asked if I could open up a fitting room. I’ve been in shoe stores trying on shoes and someone will ask me if I have a certain size or if what they are looking for comes in a different color. I have been a guest at a hotel and someone will ask me if I can have someone come unlock their room because they left their key inside. I have been shopping for cars at a dealership and someone will ask me what the mileage is on a specific model vehicle. This is not a lie. I get mistaken everywhere I go. One time someone told me I looked, “extremely knowledgeable” and that is why they asked for assistance. I didn't buy it.
Unfortunately, I haven’t always been kind in my tone or response. Chris and I were rushing to a wedding once and stopped in at a drugstore to pick up a card. Someone came up to me with a weekly ad circular in their hand and started to ask me questions. What was meant to be an inquisitive, “does it look like I work here?” sounded more like, “Open your eyes lady. Is anybody else in this entire store wearing a Giorgio Armani suit? How can you be so stupid?!?!?” She was humiliated, and so was I after the words came out of my mouth. I apologized profusely, but it didn’t help. Not only did I feel bad for my tone, but the look of disappointment on Chris’s face the entire night made me feel even worse.
Yesterday while shopping at a children’s classic store Janie & Jack, it happened again. I was wearing blue jeans, sneakers, an American Cancer Society Relay For Life top with the word “RELAY” printed down the sleeve holding a large cup of tea I just bought at Teavana. A woman was shopping with what I’m assuming was her daughter and new granddaughter. They were browsing the sale rack and she got my attention. Holding up a light pink ruffled yoke top and a rose colored cardigan, she asked, “Do these two go together?”
“Um… not really.”
“well, what goes with this piece?”
Shuffling through the rack, I pull out a grey knit top and a white cropped cardigan. “I would suggest these two pieces.”
“What other pieces are part of this collection?” I realize she thinks I’m an employee.
“Oh, I’m just a dad offering up his fashion advice.”
“I’m so sorry, I thought you worked here.” and then gave me a puzzled look. Not a look of embarrassment, but one of ‘why are you helping me then’.
“I’m just a gay dad offering up my fashion advice. I would never put my daughter in those two pieces you have,” said in a jokingly and somewhat flamboyant way.
“Are you in I.T.?”
Where in the world did that come from? If I’m not a retail employee I’m a computer geek? That’s a far stretch.
“Nope. Just a gay dad.” Again, trying to play it cool.
“Do you work with computers?”
Okay, now I get it. I’m wearing my glasses. Is that what she’s going for? I’m starting to get confused here, and normally it’s the other way around.
“I work on a computer, but I not on computers.” Referencing my shirt (I’m always the walking billboard for Relay), “I work for the American Cancer Society managing their signature event, Relay For Life.”
“Nope. That’s not it. Do you do something creative on the computer?”
Now I’m at a total loss. What is this woman talking about? I just look at her.
“Are you creative on the computer? Do you create anything on the computer? Graphics? Designs? I see that you are creative on the computer. I just can’t see it.”
“Um. I guess so. I mean I do some design, but it’s not part of my job.”
“Well, whatever it is, you’re going to be famous. Famous, I tell you. You are going to be very famous for your creative outlet.”
I have a blank look on my face.
“I’m a professional charlatan. I know these things. You’re going to be famous.”
And with that, I walked away. All I could think was, “isn’t a charlatan a swindler? That isn’t a good thing, right?” And then I felt stupid. Am I thinking of something else? She didn’t say clairvoyant, because I would have been all up in that. So I then went back and hovered a little in the area that she was in, hoping that we would make eye-contact so I could start the conversation again. I didn’t happen. Chris had by now checked out and we went outside the store to meet with Kyle and Cathy who had munchkin sleeping in the stroller. After telling the story, Cathy wanted to go back to see if the woman could tell her if she was having a boy or a girl. We turned around but realized neither one of us where going to ask her the question. Both of us were too chicken to do it [this part is for Cathy…It hit me when we got in the car, Cathy you don’t need a charlatan or a clairvoyant to tell you what you’re having. You could simply ask your doctor instead of driving everyone crazy. You’re due in eight days and you refuse to find out the sex if baby “P”. I’m tired of buying yellow outfits for when he/she comes.]
All I have to say is Ted Bundy, Bernie Madoff and "Squeaky" Fromme were all once called ‘creative’ before they became famous, and no one thinks the type of fame that they have is a good thing. I can live without the predication.