Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Toy Stores and Assumptions

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The other day, P and I went into this amazing toy and book store in Staunton.  We wandered into the second of the two rooms and gazed, with pleasure, at the various coloring books and bouncing horse-thingys.  Just as I was about to say how much I dislike the “pink” Legos that are designed for girls because, well, girls can play with regular Legos but boys will probably never play with these . . . one of the store employees came over to ask if we needed anything.

“No, we’re just looking around,” I said, “Thanks,” and returned to browsing.

Yet, the man kept standing there, staring at us, watching us pick up things and put them down.

I checked my bag to be sure I hadn’t brought in a duffle where I could stash loads of Ravensburger puzzles – nope, just my tiny purse.  Still, the man kept staring.

Eventually, he moved on, and I turned to P, “A couple more minutes of that and I was going to get very annoyed.”

Then, I realized that this was the first time I felt suspected of shoplifting for no reason at all.  My next thought was, oh no, this is what my friends mean when they say they get followed around in stores for no reason they can determine except that they’re teenagers or black.  This tiny glimmer of understanding – emotional and physical – opened up in me.

We continued to browse the store, eventually coming to the book section and stalling out.  After I read P several picture books and we each settled on a young adult novel to read this summer (Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three and The Sisters Grimm), we headed to the register. The owner chatted with us as a bit, and the man who had talked to us early stood behind the register as well.  His pink t-shirt was stained with what must have been chocolate ice cream (Or was that my own fantasy coming forth?).  He asked if we wanted the books gift-wrapped, looking me dead in the face without blinking.

Another glimmer.

As we moved toward the door, P picked up a Melissa & Doug Latch Board – “This is what I would have loved as a kid.”

Just then, the man in the pink shirt returned to tell us about Doorbell House.  “This one is great for kids, too.  It has four doors with a key for each one. The keys are numbered, too. And there’s a doorbell for each one. The kids have to learn how to match it all up.  They can ring the doorbells.”  He picked up the box and spun it around for us as we continued to shift ourselves out of the store.

He was a good salesman – by the time, we left, I kind of wanted the Doorbell House.

“Ah, he has Asberger’s, I think.” I said to Philip when we were on the sidewalk outside.

“Yeah, there’s something . . . .” And we walked on, glimmered with knowing.

Have you ever had someone assume something about you that was a mistake? Have you ever done the same?

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • Beth

    Love this! We all assume things, it is how we make sense of the world. We have to connect our current experiences to our past so that we can learn, remember and make sense of things, but the problem is when we aren’t willing to change our assumptions when new information arrives and remind ourselves that we could be wrong and be open minded to other possibilities. What is very sad is when folks won’t admit (even to themselves) that they make assumptions (prejudices….prejudgements). Each person is an individual. The minute we lump them in to a category we lose the richness of who they are. If we are open to experiencing them we can enjoy them and not be stuck in the assumption of who we think they are. Your words reminds me that people are making assumptions about me too.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Exactly, Beth. We all operate on assumptions because we can’t know anyone fully, and we have to function even on first meetings. But it’s when we aren’t aware that we do this – as you say – when we believe that our assumptions are right or full, that we devalue a human. Thanks for reading.