Another day at Arundel Village!

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PREVIOUSLY, I have written in this paper about Arundel Village in my series ‘Gloves Off for 2018.’
In particular, I wrote of the preposterous empty boast of this little old Belgian woman who preached to me about boxes and ribbons she would not avail because they were all the way from Belgium when in fact her business was selling chocolates made with cocoa from Africa and not boxes and ribbons from Belgium.
Last week I revisited this Belgian shop and there was a different white woman, also old.
Her greeting was a little hyper, with a cheerfulness that is condescending.
But I had business to do and that left her with no choice but to be ‘normal’ with me.
I asked how early one has to order a cake.
“One day in advance,” she said, “but if you want it for Monday, they don’t work on Saturday, then you have to order for Tuesday because then they make it…,” she went on and on.
I could not believe this was turning into a lecture; surely it is a simple enough deduction that if they do not work on Saturday you adjust your schedule.
I left with the unpleasant feeling that, like the earlier Belgian woman, there is a problem. They cannot see us as normal human beings with a normal intellect, we of the chocolate skin.
Next I entered a clothes shop where the storekeeper was a young white girl.
The atmosphere was tense from the moment I entered the shop.
She did not greet me.
I noted that and proceeded to look at the merchandise.
I stopped at a rack of winter jackets and asked for the price of a particular one.
“They all have price tags,” she announced loudly across the shop.
I looked for the price tag, but could not find one. I looked at the next jacket and the next until I found the tag.
As I moved around the shop, she suddenly came past me and stopped a few feet away from me.
I wondered what was afoot for her to come so close to a person she would not greet or serve.
After a minute or so I realised that I had come close to the till, the cash-box.
“Ah well, every African is a thief,” the stereotyping dawned on me.
I continued to look at the merchandise.
I came across a pair of boots, handsomely made and durable.
This time I searched for the price tag, diligently. I did not want to be rebuffed again.
There was none.
“There is no price tag on this one, what is the price for this pair of shoes?” I asked.
She did not answer, she went to a pair of boots furthest from me, checked the price and announced it loudly across the shop.
By that time, it was obvious that my presence irritated her. When the cold treatment had not worked, she was at the end of her tether. Her voice was testy, her face was turning red and her frequent glances at me carried the message I should leave.
I therefore decided that although I was done, I would not leave the shop until I was at peace.
I began examining each item of interest with slow intensity until I felt at peace.
Realising I was going nowhere soon, she had to busy herself on something else.
Later, I left.
Next was a wine shop manned by a white girl, almost the same age as the one in the clothes shop.
Her greeting was nonchalant.
I wondered what was amiss!
Here I was, with my dollars which I wanted to spend!
What was the problem?
I looked for the wine I wanted but could not find it on the shelf.
I asked her for help and she asked me if I knew what the bottle looked like and how I spelt the name of the wine.
Surely I would know what I was looking for!
I answered her questions nevertheless.
She glanced at the shelf and said: “Shouldn’t it be on the shelf?”
I assured her there was nothing.
She then went to her computer and announced: “We should have it in stock, it’s reflected here.”
She continued to work on her computer. I didn’t realise I had been dismissed, so l lingered on until the interval was too long to be excusable.
As I left the shop, it dawned on me that I had been persona non grata from the moment I entered the wine shop.
In a handbag and sunglasses shop, this southern European-looking male seemed a normal person until I started looking at items closely, in particular a handbag! Then he suddenly came from behind the counter and stood too close to me.
I didn’t like it — who was going to snatch a handbag and run away with it in broad daylight!
In another clothes shop, an African woman was serving a white woman when I entered. She would not acknowledge my presence until she was done with the white woman. From then on, each time I enquired about this or that other item, she answered with increasing irritation and yet she had been so relaxed, friendly and peaceful with the white woman.
I said to myself: ‘What is this? Franz Fanon would have said ‘Black skin white masks.’
That was another day at Arundel Village, Mt Pleasant, Harare.
‘Rhodesians never die,’ they boast!

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