Over the winter break I’ve been subbing at my dad’s coffee place in the downtown. The regular girl is off on vacation for Christmas and New Year’s and I decided what the heck? With six years of convenience store experience under my belt, I’m more than qualified. And here’s the funny thing – I actually like it! I especially enjoy the regulars – the interaction, the quick humour, the light-hearted banter. And since I’m a happy person at heart and nothing pisses me off more than a surly sales rep, I’ve always got a smile ready. And the unlimited coffee refills kinda help, to be honest =P
But sometimes, it’s not all smiles and fun. Sometimes you get the creeps. Especially since this particular coffee shop is located in the downtown, and you can’t quite control who has access to the building it’s situated in, you kind of have to put up them.
Example one: The man who always fill his large cup half way, then insists I charge him for a small. Always. Regardless of whether or not the pot is brimming with fresh coffee, there’s never quite enough to fill his large.
Example two: The man who spent an hour and 34 minutes assuring me that while Canada may be cold, at least I feel safe. Unlike the Middle East, where gun-fights break out randomly, and people with bombs strapped to their chest are running around willy-nilly. Yes, indeed. The cold is a small price to pay for safety. When I informed him that in I-raq, a war has been waging for the past nine years he looked at me blankly and said “Oh yeah! 1960s wasn’t it? Yes, it might be warm there, but it’s dangerous” *repeat stories of gun fights, bombs, and Al-Qaeda and a foray into Turkish coffee – which I’m told is worth giving up for safety*
Then there are those that occur outside the coffee shop, as I walk towards my car which is parked seven blocks down (free parking, so sue me).
En route to my car the other day, I went into the Calgary Public Library to get the address of my friend’s house. On my way in, this man stops in front of me to beat the snow off his shoes before entering, effectively blocking my way. I waited, because I had no other choice, and when he noticed me behind him he smiled and apologized. I told him not to worry and brushed by him to get into the library. I head towards the empty computer and he follows me, standing behind me. I figure, whatever, all the computers are full and he’s probably just waiting for me to finish. I tune him out, finish my business, and leave.
A block later, I notice that he’s right beside me, grinning at me while he walks along. Okaaayyy. I look away kind of hoping that maybe if I don’t show recognition he’ll just walk on by. Well, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. He comments on the weather, I reply. To sum the next five blocks up as painlessly as possible, he follows me making inane conversation revolving around my Islam, and how he’s Muslim, and how I should consider meeting up with him at the mosque. At the edge of downtown I stop and ask were he’s going. He thought we’d take the LRT together. Seeing an out I quickly inform him that, unfortunately *cough cough*, I’m actually headed towards my car. Turns out that’s fine, he’ll walk me to my car – still two blocks away – and then head back towards the station which we’d passed two blocks ago. I assure him that is not necessary, but he insists and we walk on.
A block of his chattering and my mumbling later he stops and I brace myself for the expected. Can I have your number? No. Email? No. Dad’s number? No. Will you meet me at the Mosque? Uh.. no. Will you take my email/number? Sorry, no. Am I sure? Yes. Positive? Very.
He heaves a heavy sigh, informs me what hours he frequents the NW mosque and stands watching while I half-run the rest of the block to my car. I get in, lock the doors and sit there shivering in the darkness of my car, too damn creeped out to get out and brush the snow off the windows. Through the rearview I can see him standing there, staring. 15 minutes later and I guess he’s convinced I’m not about to change my mind. He heads back and I start my car, driving over a curb in my haste to get the heck out of there.
I get to my friends house and share the story. I’m not surprised to learn every girl there has had multiple similar experiences – and all by Muslims. Nonmuslims will ask for your number, or ask you out for drinks and if you choose to decline, they’ll graciously back out. Muslims, on the other hand, use the religion you have in common as a wedge, convinced that through that mutual ground, there lies the path towards a wonderful, lasting relationship.