SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2009       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Tina Robertson

The Appointment

“I’ll wait in the car with my book while you go do your appointment,” Mom said as I got out of the car, careful not to bump the wound on my leg. “O.K. It shouldn’t be too long since I do have an appointment and I’m not a walk-in.” I hobbled in to the check-in counter and said to the lady, “Hi, I’m Michelle Johnson; I have an appointment for 2:00 p.m.” The rather hassled Hispanic-looking lady took my paper and said to take a seat. I looked around. There wasn’t a seat to be had. I looked back to the lady and said, “I was just released from the hospital 30 minutes ago. I have a wound on my leg. Do you think there might be a seat back there that someone could bring out for me?” “No. If there are no seats, you will just have to lean against the side counter with everyone else.” And then she walked away!

So I limped over to the side counter. It was thin, about 18 inches wide, and painted institutional gray. It was decorated with carvings and pencil marks in both English and Spanish telling who loved who and who hated who, where to call for a good time and several interesting (and anatomically challenging) things to do with yourself should you get bored. Every twenty minutes or so I would drag myself over to the check-in counter to see what the problem was since I was on time for my appointment and it was getting later and later. It was like pulling teeth out of a rabid tiger to get one of them to talk with me! They were a bunch of Hispanic ladies, busy speaking Spanish to each other and they apparently resented having their conversation interrupted to do any work by helping clients.

Finally, after an hour and a half had gone by my mother walks in. “Have you been standing there this whole time?” She asks, incredulously. “Yes, I don’t know what the problem is, they won’t talk to me,” I reply. “Oh really!” Mom says, “We’ll see about that!” And proceed to march up to the counter. Now, my mom is about five feet ought, and looks every inch of the Native American blood she has in her. So she marches up on the counter and the ladies working there, instead of ignoring her, like they did me, fall all over themselves to get over to help her! “Can we help you, Ma’am?” “What can we do for you, Ma’am?” It was rather sickening to watch. “Yes, you can help me; you can get me a supervisor immediately!” Mom says. “Well, is there anything we can do for you?” “Do what I asked, now!” Mom insists. So one of the ladies goes scurrying off.

I had been having a so-so day, when Serena from the front counter came up to my desk, “There’s an Indian woman at the counter who wants to see a Supervisor.” “Serena, we’ve talked about your racism before, it’s going to get you into big time trouble one of these days. It doesn’t matter what race a person is. It should be ‘there is a woman at the counter’ understand?” I get so frustrated. As an African-American man, I have dealt with racism all my life. I work against it when I can and I certainly don’t promote it amongst my workers! “Well, whatever, she wants to see you, Kevin.” “O.K. I’m coming.” So I get up and go with her.

At the front desk, Mom is fuming by the time the Supervisor gets there. “What can I do for you Ma’am” Kevin asks. “You can explain why my daughter, who was released from the hospital two hours ago has been kept standing in your lobby waiting for an appointment that was supposed to be an hour and a half ago!” “I am so sorry! Which one is your daughter?” Mom turns and gestures to me. I step forward.

“Oh, they didn’t realize she was your daughter!” It came out of my mouth before I could stop it! I was horrified. And, I realized as I looked at the Mother’s face, sunk. She tore into me without giving me a chance to apologize or explain. I, Kevin Jones, crusader against racism, was being yelled at for discrimination!

“Now,” Mom said, as she was winding down, “show them your leg.” So I stepped away from the counter lifted my skirt and the bandage and showed them the wound left from the brown recluse spider bite I got while working at the Haunted House attraction that year (1996). Brown Recluses leave nasty looking bites, to put it mildly. The ladies behind the counter had to look away, and I thought the supervisor was going to be ill. I never saw a chair materialize so fast in my life! They also “suddenly” found my caseworker so they were able to finally get me into my appointment.

That was an unpleasant experience to go through. I certainly would not have thought that Latino workers would treat someone like that considering the stuff their people were being put through with the immigration issues and such. But maybe they saw it as their chance to “get even”, I don’t know.


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