Letter from the Editor 

The line at the cash register in the Macy's men's department was four-people deep. I was number four, standing there with my soon-to-be-purchased (I hoped) pants hanging over my arm. But "soon" didn't look to be in the cards.

The guy at the head of the line had a big stack of stuff — two pairs of jeans, a Calvin Klein shirt, a couple pairs of socks, and a belt. He was a smallish black guy, maybe a teenager, maybe a little older. He was dressed in baggy, low-rider pants, an oversize T-shirt, shiny white tennis shoes, and a new baseball cap with a stiff brim turned sideways on his head.

In short, he looked like the classic urban hip-hop stereotype. He and the sales clerk were engaged in a rather involved conversation. As they continued to chat, those of us in line began to get restless. The guy in front of me let out a sigh — a very audible "this-is-so-Memphis" sigh.

Then a funny thing happened. The guy in front of him joined in the conversation at the checkout.

I heard him ask the kid, "So, when are you going back?"

"In a month," he said. "I'm getting this stuff because I'm tired of wearing that uniform all the time." He smiled as he said it. A big warm smile.

Turns out that the "kid" was in the U.S. Army. He was going back to Iraq for his second tour of duty in December. Suddenly, those of us in line weren't in a hurry anymore. Everyone started talking to the kid, asking him how it was going over there, how was morale, etc.

"Pretty good," he said. "I won't say I'm looking forward to going back. But you gotta do what you gotta do. It's the Army, man."

The clerk finished ringing up the young man's items and put them in a sack. As she handed them to him, she said, "God bless you, child. You be careful."

The rest of us in line shook his hand and said thank you and be careful and thank you again. He smiled from underneath his tilted ball cap, thanked us, and walked away.

Reality, one. Stereotype, zero.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies trade Troy Daniels to Phoenix

Music Blog

Listen Up: Louise Page

News Blog

Suit Targets 'Destructive' Drivers License Policy

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

mother!

News Blog

Supreme Court Steps In on Fayette Church Matter

Intermission Impossible

Muhammad Ali Meets Stepin Fetchit at The Hattiloo Theatre

News Blog

Task Force Considers Medical Cannabis

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

  • Pick a Side

    • Aug 17, 2017
  • Vendor in the Grass

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare

    Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.

    • Mar 31, 2016
  • Common Sense Pot Policy

    Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...
    • Aug 25, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation