I used to work for a recruiting firm in Marietta that hired a casserole of characters to serve as “recruiters”. It was a glorified call center, painted with slate blue walls and outfitted with slate gray cubicle-ettes (half cubicles that offered 0 privacy). 8.5 of the Black men that worked there were gay. The .5 were those who were either on the down low or so effeminate that their sexual orientation could justifiably be questioned. Every 2nd woman looked like a victory story from a Javelin Tech commercial. Their tight (attempt at appearing ‘corporate’) trousers screamed “success for life!”. Many wore too much make up or had too little hair to cover their lace front weaves.
The managers sat on my side of the cube maze. We had our resident Jewess who referred to herself on sales calls as a JAP (Jewish American Princess) and/or a yud. All of the management team were related to each other in one way or another: either by blood, school affiliation or military service. And then there was Cory, a sinewy brown skinned man from Glenwood who looked like a gangster in a polo and khakis. Cory was the type of guy who might not stab you, but he surely knew some people who would and could. He hovered just high above the ghetto to maintain his “street cred” and dip in and out when needed. To the right of my cube sat a blond haired, green-eyed girl named Stacy, whose job function I am STILL not certain about. Every office does/should have a Stacy. She had rosy cheeks and plump pink lips. She sang in her church’s worship team. There was a tattoo of a cross on her wrist. She saved sharp words for only the worst of times, and was generally very sweet. She reeked of sunshine and all things good and wholesome. It was really disgusting, how much of a Disney cartoon character this walking cliche was.
And then there was me. Black as she was white, and evil as she was sweet.
One morning I decided to make a quick breakfast run to Chick-fila with another co-worker, and offered to pick up something for the rest of the team. Nobody wanted anything…except Stacy. She handed me an empty drink cup from Chick-fila. I looked at her quizzically.
“Can you get me a refill on a Coke Zero please?”
“Yeah…but where’s your money?” I asked.
“Oh you don’t need money!” she exclaimed. “You just go in there with your cup and tell them you want a refill.”
“Stacy…I don’t think it works like that. I’m pretty sure you have to buy a whole new drink.”
“No you don’t!” she insisted. “It’s Chick-fila. You can do whatever you want!”
I looked back at Cory, whose cube sat catercorner to mine. His eyes spoke sympathy, amusement and scorn. He knew what was surely coming next.
“Stacy, I -”
“Take the cup, Malaka,” she said, waving it in my face.”
As I walked into the restaurant, dozens of peopled milled around me. Chick-fila ia a venerable zoo in the morning, because the breakfast is so good. A butch woman with a buzz cut and a gray manager’s button down took my order.
“I’d like a breakfast platter please,” I said.
She punched in the order. I waited for her to hand me my bag.
“And I’d also like a refill of Coke Zero in this. Light ice please.” I was almost whispering. Her face turned red.
“Ma’am!” she bellowed. Everyone in the restaurant turned to look. I froze. “You just can’t walk in here with a cup and ask for a refill! You have to buy a new drink…or get a refill for when you’re dining IN the restaurant!”
“I’m going to do it for you just this once.”
She filled the cup and shoved it across the counter. I walked out in shame, feeling like a whipped dog.
When I got back to the office and handed Stacy her stupid drink, recounting my horrible ordeal.
“What?” she exclaimed in shock. “I’m surprised! Normally you can do whatever you want at Chick-fila!”
“No, Stacy. You can’t.”
“You can do whatever you want at Chick-fila,” interjected Cory.
“But I can’t,” I finished.
Understanding flooded her eyes. Her sister (who of course also worked for the company) was listening to the whole exchange.
“Fascinating!” she said. “We should do an undercover expose on how different people get different service at the same restaurant. Like the ones they do on TV.”
Uh…we just did.
An IM message popped up on my screen as I was biting into my chicken biscuit.
-Ahhh Kizzy. When is you gonna learn?
-I didn’t WANT to get the stupid drink! I knew what was going to happen!
-Pretty funny though. I can imagine how you musta felt when that lady hollered at you. Poor stupid black Kizzy.
-It’s NOT funny Brutus. Shut your face.
What’s the lesson here? The next time somebody tells you to go get you a drink and doesn’t give you any money, walk outside to the water fountain and fill up the cup!