We stood in the gift shop in the weak light waiting for the next group of Christmas shoppers to walk in from the shopping centre next door. My first post-university part time job was cleaning this childrens’ art centre. My boss had me in the gift shop part of the day to keep an eye on the shopping crowds.
They had been coming in small trickles every 20 minutes or so, strangely regular as a clock, bought what they wished and then left. The volunteer lady was 67. She had spoken at length about her work and her retirement the traditional two years before. I doubted that she lied about her age. She was a very direct woman. When things displeased her she spoke quickly and loudly. She didn’t seem to care much for the pretense and deception that some people use as a shield. We talked about the winter weather, and winter colds, and so she was able to mention her last bad cold a year ago. She was not prone to colds, so that was of interest. Also, this bad cold had caught her after three holiday flights—one to Barbados, to Italy, and to California.
”Barbados was awful though. All the black men there. It was terrible. It was all so obvious and it made me very nervous. That’s the only time when I’ve travelled off the North American continent that I’ve felt nervous, not quite safe at all. So pushy. I watched from my hotel room balcony. If a girl’s husband or boyfriend left; the next moment three beach bums came right up.
”I liked Martinique though. There a different kind of black. They’re French. It makes the difference.”