Abetting evil

Knights of old
Knights of old

There’s an independently-owned hardware store in Columbia where I used to go when I needed expert advice. The selection was small, the prices were high and the proprietor, who looked remarkably like Willie Nelson, was in a perpetually bad mood.

If I didn’t need advice, I jolly well went to the big box store, but I went to Willie when I did because he seemed to know everything about plumbing, carpentry, wiring, roofing, … you name it … which made him a valuable resource to guys like me, do-it-yourselfers who’d rather spend half a day installing a kitchen sink P-trap than hire a professional.
Then there came the day when Willie showed me his true colors, although I doubt that he’d ever made any conscious effort to hide them.

I was waiting for him to ring up my purchase, the proper use of which he’d just explained, when the postman walked in with his mail. An Asian postman. Willie turned to me after the postman was gone and said with a sardonic chuckle, as if he and I were fellow travelers, “Damn gooks over here takin’ all our jobs.” Then he went back to business, as if all he’d said was, “Think I’ll get me a moon pie for lunch.”

I was stunned. Not by the confirmation of Willie’s racism. He fit the stereotype. But by how off-handedly he’d expressed that racism to a nearly total stranger. The confidence. The arrogance.

I hope that I said something noncommital, if anything, because I think I said something more along the lines of “Yeah” when I should have told him that he was a pathetic ass. Or maybe not. He might have sodomized me right there at the register if I’d done that.

The extent of my rebuke, I’m embarrassed to say, was to take my business elsewhere. All $20 a year of it.

Sure, the odds of anything that I might have said effecting any real change in the man were nil to negative, but I might have made him think twice before polluting the next stranger’s mind with some casual perjorative. It’s possible. Maybe I could have made him feel a little less “safe” in doing or saying whatever he pleased.

But I just walked out. I let him get away with it. One more do-nothing passerby abetting evil.

You have my sincere apology.