This happened a week ago. A little background: I am a cosplayer and a fan of Overwatch. A few months ago a couple of friends and I decided to do an Overwatch cosplay group for an upcoming con and being the overachieving idiot that I am, I ended up volunteering to make the cosplays of five other people in the group (McCree, Ana, Sombra, Bastion, and Pharah, for anyone who’s curious. I’m also making Zarya for myself.) Why am I sharing this? Because the sheer anxiety being brought upon by my looking deadline is the only thing I can think of to excuse why I so stupidly ignored some pretty obvious red flags.
So onto the incident. I’ve taken to frequenting thrift stores whenever I’m pressed for time with a cosplay (and can’t make everything from scratch) since they’re great to pick up some items for very cheap that can be altered to look like a part of a costume. This particular night I found myself at a nearby Salvation Army, with my mother in tow (she’s the Ana in our group.)
I was going through the aisles, trying to find pieces when I looked up and made accidental eye contact with an employee. He perked up and made a beeline for me, greeting me and asking if I needed help. Now, this was a little bit odd, as you don’t really get that kind of customer service in this Salvation Army but I figured he was new and overly eager or something.
I explained what I was looking for and he led me around the store. We didn’t find much and I was ready to thank him and call it a night, when he really quickly asked if I wanted to check the back. Now, I’d been in the back before while dropping off a donation, but I was pretty sure customers weren’t allowed there to fiddle with the merchandise. But since crunchtime was looming and he had mentioned he liked video games in passing, I figured what the heck, he just wants to be nice and help a fellow geek out.
…. yeah, I know.
The back area looked like a warehouse and had giant containers filled with things, separated by category. I was poking in one filled with hats seeing if I could find something for McCree, when he suddenly spoke up.
“So what kind of boys do you like?”
Oh no. Now, this particular container was pressed against the back wall of the area and had the other containers lined up against it in a row, making a sort of sea-of-merch to one side of me, all of them too close together to squeeze in between. On my other side were some heavy metal storage containers pressed against each other. These two sides formed a sort of little alley way of which this guy was now standing directly in the entrance. I should also probably mention that he was both significantly taller and wider than I am. Gulp.
At first I tried to pointedly ignore the question and asked him if he’d seen any brown cowboy hats, hoping he’d take a hint. He said he hadn’t, but asked me the question again. Now, normally I don’t like the idea of giving a fake excuse to get away from a guy, but his demeanor was slowly changing from awkward to genuinely creepy. Like, it’s hard to describe but he was just a lot more intense and gave off a vibe like this was going exactly as planned for him. So I fumbled my progressively alarmed brain to choose between “I have a boyfriend” or “I’m a lesbian.”
I went with the lesbian option. I’m not proud of it, but being openly bisexual, it feels like more of a half-truth and is usually respected in the city I live in (big LGBT population.) “I have a boyfriend” is usually met with “He doesn’t have to know.”
Of course, this wouldn’t be Let’s Not Meet if my excuse had worked. Rather than just accept it and move on, he fixed his eyes on me and asked “So have you ever been with a guy?” When I didn’t say anything, he told me his name, which was unisex, but most commonly used for girls and told me that since it was kind of a girl’s name, would it “make it ok?”
I let out an awkward chuckle, but this point I was not just scared, I was getting pissed. However, odds were not in my favor if he got violent and while I considered texting my mother (she had a cart and those weren’t allowed in the back) a quick glance at the screen told me it had died sometime before I walked into the back area. Fan-fucking-tastic. The music was also pretty loud and I didn’t think any screaming would carry out far enough to be of help.
Luckily, right behind him was a container of shoes and I acted quickly. I’m not scared of making an ass out of myself and I let out this giant gasp and pointed “Oh MY GOD!!! Those are PERFEEEEECT!!! Move, move! Let me see them!” I did my best to act as exaggerated as possible and he was caught off guard enough by my sudden change in demeanor that he took a step back big enough to to let me dart past him. He started to protest but I grabbed a random pair and turned to him “You know, my mother’s outside in the store, I have to ask her if these are the right size! Thank you so much for letting me look here!” And I speed-walked my way out of the back room.
He followed shortly after and spent the entire time looking sulky. I did end up buying the few things I saw before, but I didn’t say anything or ask to see a manager, mostly out of embarrassment. While I know from reading this, I may sound like someone in their teens, I am an adult and finding myself cornered in a stranger danger situation was extremely uncomfortable and shameful. However, I probably will return to that location and if he does approach me in any way outside of basic customer interaction, I am going to raise hell. So, creepy Salvation Army employee, let’s not meet again… but if we do, back the hell off, because I’m not getting caught up in that bullshit again.
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