There is a liquor store that I frequent regularly. My tastes are wide and eclectic. One day I’ll buy a national brand sixer of beer. The other I’m looking at the selection of 18 year-old Scotch. And through these experiences, over the past year, I’ve noticed a curious trend. If a single bottle of whatever is in my purchase retails for over fifty dollars, I will be, without fail, referred to as “sir” and “gentleman” from the moment I put the bottle into my hand, showing my intent to purchase it, through to the moment I walk outside the store. Sometimes even just looking at the “top shelf” stuff is enough to elicit a response from either the staff or even other customers.
The response of other customers is the embarrassing. Not embarrassment for myself or the other customers, but for the society we live in. It’s typically a man who clearly is a blue-collar worker wearing jeans and tough workboots, sometimes covered in stains of paint and chemicals. People who do what I feel is the most important, underrated work there is. They create and help maintain the places we work and live in; where we spend most of our lives. And on the rare occasion I’m looking at the $50-a-bottle and up shelf while they look at the bottom shelf, because for some fucked up reason their jobs aren’t valued or paid as highly as they should be, they will make some kind of comment as if they are embarrassed they can’t buy the “rich stuff”. It immediately reminds me of how fucked up some of society’s values are.
But if I walk into this same liquor store only to buy a six-pack of beer, I’m now called “buddy” or “pal” or, especially if I have a “cheap” sixer of something like Budweiser, it’s nothing at all. There is no “sir” or “gentleman” even though I am dressed in exactly the same cheap, low-level white-collar clothes I usually wear. It isn’t the clothes they see. It’s the booze in my hand.
And it’s not just the staff, it’s also the customers. With a sixer of Bud strangers will have no problems striking up conversations about whatever is going on in the world. Somehow a sixer of Bud in the hand is disarming or inviting. Something more “high-brow” like a micro-brew or more expensive national brand and there’s a small, but noticeable pause before someone approaches me to strike up a conversation. That $60 bottle of Glenfiddich, however, is like a gaudy crown. People are hesitant to to even look in my direction. Only after I smile and nod after our eyes meet do they “dare” start talking to me.
It’s fucked up how this sense caste seems to spread far beyond the superficial things most commonly highlighted like what car you drive, how attractive your significant other is, or what title might come with your business card (if you even have one). It’s deeply rooted in our (American) society and that shit has got to stop. But some asshole with a blog isn’t going to fix that, or even offer a solution (except to do away with all forms of measuring wealth, fucking socialists). I’ll just point it out, bitch, and think “yeah, I’ve done my civic duty for this quarter” and go back to my low-level, white-collar job where once every couple of months I can spend some money on an extra special bottle of tipple.
Curiously, strangers never strike up a conversation with me in any way when I’m looking at wine. Only beer or hard alcohol. Wine of any sort doesn’t seem to have any effect in this regard. Whether it’s a $100 bottle or a $10 bottle nobody not the staff or the customers show any difference (until the clerk rings it up anyways). So maybe I should stick to wine if I (naively) want to avoid being reminded that caste exists and people feel unequal to others.
Pro-tip: we’re all the same. we all shit. and all our shit stinks. even girls. seriously.