*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
Part of my job as an assistant manager at a large resale shop was phoning customers whose checks had bounced and asking them to come in and pay off their resulting debt. I hated it.
One customer was a frequent flier. She bought a lot of items, and she bounced a lot of checks. I knew exactly who she was, and I didn't particularly like her. I dreaded calling her, and I hoped she wouldn't answer the phone.
Most customers who regularly bounced checks gave us bogus phone numbers or let our calls go to voicemail. Those were my favorites. Not this lady.
I called the phone number written on the front of the check and shuddered when she answered on the first ring.
I introduced myself, and told her where I was calling from, and why. "So if you could please come to the store at your earliest convenience and pay us cash or credit card, we can give you back the check," I told her. "Just ask for Tracey or Anna."
"Is Anna the fat one?" she asked.
Oh no, I think she's talking about me, I thought. Anna wasn't fat. At all.
I was a little bit fat, although I didn't really think it was pertinent to a conversation about this woman's bounced check.
"Um, no," I replied. "Anna isn't fat."
"The fat one," she powered on. "With long dark hair."
"No," I said. "Anna has short blond hair, and she isn't fat."
I could have cleared up the confusion simply by announcing that I was the fat one with long dark hair, but I didn't. Instead, I kept repeatedly telling her that Anna was neither fat nor brunette, hoping she would get the hint and feel ashamed of herself.
I was shocked and hurt when the woman called me "the fat one" after I phoned her to let her know that her check had bounced at the store where I worked. It felt like a slap in the face, and I wasn't sure how to respond. I had done my job courteously and respectfully, yet this woman had the audacity to call me out on my size... even if she didn't realize she was actually speaking with "the fat one," as she'd described me.
I wanted to explain that I was a person too and that making personal attacks on me was unnecessary and inappropriate. But instead of speaking up, I found myself silently holding in my emotions, feeling embarrassed and small. It took me a few minutes before I could gather enough courage to calmly end the conversation and hang up the phone.
The incident left me feeling shaken and vulnerable. I learned that day that it's important to respect and defend myself, no matter the situation. We all have a right to be treated with kindness and respect, and I should have spoken up for myself that day.
What would you have done? Comments are welcome.
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