From gloves to love

South Africa celebrates Youth Day with a public holiday and I was in Edgars at the Eastgate Mall that afternoon. I didn’t know that Edgars had Youth Day sales until my counterpart from Florida A&M University (FAMU), Professor Joe Ritchie, bought a pair of gloves. This is what happened to him… he took a pair of gloves from the shelf; it was on 25% discount. He took it to the checkout counter and the cashier gave him a Youth Day scratch card. He got lucky. He had another 50% discount as indicated on the scratch card. Not a bad deal after all.

Incidentally, I needed a few pairs of gloves for my students and myself to survive one of the coldest Joburg winters in recent years. And how could I resist the temptation on discount upon discount? So I went to the same shelf, took the same gloves, went to the same checkout counter and guess what? The friendly cashier told me that I won’t be given the chance to scratch the Youth Day discount card because I was buying the discounted item. My jaw dropped, I turned my head and looked at Joe, I think I was able to tell to him that I was denied the chance of my lifetime to try my luck on a huge discount merely through my eye contact. I was devastated. The cashier went on to explain the terms and conditions of the Youth Day scratch card. Utterly disappointed, I told her to save her breath if she was not going to let me scratch the card. Anyway, I still got 25% off the price tag.

I then met up with another Professor from FAMU, Andrew Skerritt, after the scratch card fiasco and he rubbed it in with a joke. He suggested that maybe I am not black enough. He ended his line with his one-of-a-kind laugh. Andrew’s words kind of struck me right on the spot. Joe is African American, the cashier is Black South African and I am Chinese Malaysian, I don’t know what colour category I fall into for South Africans. But wait a minute! This situation became more delicate than I thought: a simple case of misunderstanding and miscommunication at the departmental store checkout counter can be so easily turned into a racial issue based on skin deep appearance. Yes, our minds can be so easily tricked into taking a shortcut to explain our problems. We just need to keep reminding ourselves not to fall into that trap.

To know more about what we are doing in South Africa you may go to the following sites:
– Chinese: http://theicampus.org/worldcup
– English: http://famustu.net/worldcup

  1. i’m just wondering..did u try asking the lady why your friend got to scratch and u didn’t?

  • “there must be a mistake”

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