I was putting up sale signs and minding my own business when a gentleman strolls in. Being a well-trained retail monkey, I turn, smile, and say "Can I help you find anything?"
"You're very pretty," he says. "Like an English doughgirl."
Now, I'm closing in on thirty, but this was a new one on me. (I know what the British doughboys were, but...well, anyway.) Still, I've done furry conventions, I am a master of smiling and nodding. "Ahh...thanks...?"
He pulls out one of our flyers and asks about our big canvas sale, which ended today. I explain that what's left of it is behind him--the sale's been goin' on for a month, so we're really down to the dregs.
This annoys him.
"Bait and switch," he growls. "Isn't that just like the jews?"
My ears reported this. My brain sent back for a second opinion. My mouth hung open, awaiting orders.
"Seriously," he said, "this place is run by a bunch of jews. This is totally how they get your money."
My ears insisted that this was indeed what was being said. My brain went into panic mode and went blundering around my skull looking for the box that says "In Case Of Racism, Break Glass." My mouth said "Uh...."
At this point, O Angel of Mercy, our manager Tom descends. Now, our manager is large and blond and not my type, but a decent guy. Furthermore, he has quaaludes for blood. He is the customer service guru. He will sit on the phone while someone screams abuse, and he will take it patiently and offer them a discount.* Either he overheard something, or saw me gaping like an injured flounder, and came to rescue me.
"Can I help you?"
The guy turns around and says, to his face, "Oh, yeah, the jews always hire some big fair-haired Anglo-Saxon type as a front man."
I counted Tom's blinks and got to three before he finally said "....excuse me?"
The man repeated himself.
I retreated behind a stack of canvases.
"Is there a problem, sir?"
"This is a bait and switch! You had this sale, and this is all you've got..."
I went back to work, listening to Tom patiently explain that stock is usually depleted by the end of a month-long sale and waited for--
"It's the damn jews' fault."
Tom's voice achieved a chilliness usually measured in Kelvin.
"I'm anti-semitic," he said. (Oh, well, thank god he cleared that up...) "And I'm in a bad mood today."
"And you're bringing it in here," said Tom stiffly. "We don't appreciate that."
"I can say that!" the man insisted. "I married a jew!" He turned and went down an aisle, which unfortunately was the aisle I was working on. The hairs on the back of my neck formed a conga line.
Please don't talk to me again, please don't talk to me again, please don't...
"Sorry if I got you in trouble," the man muttered at me. "You are very pretty. Are you English?"
Tom appeared again. Whatever else might have been said was lost as I fled the scene, dove into the frame shop, and said "HIDE ME!"
Once I had explained the unutterably bizarre situation to my cohorts, and we had all gone into the muffled peals of horrified laughter that are the only possible response, I crept back out in time to watch as Tom refused to take the man's money and threw him out of the store.
I came up while our poor manager was opening and closing his mouth and running his hands through his hair and obviously contemplating screaming.
"If I helps," I said, patting him on the shoulder, "I've never seen anyone take being accused of being a front for the Jewish art supply conspiracy with more dignity."
He shook his head, pumped a fist in the air, and shouted "ZION!"
Which was probably about the only thing to say, under the circumstances.
*This is occasionally annoying when they're deeply wrong, but eh, that's customer service for ya.