Original entry on December 1, 2014
I haven't written one of these entries in a while despite the amount of crazy adventures I have been experiencing on a daily basis, especially in New York.
Based on certain experiences, I sometimes joke that apparently all hijabis must look the same... Today, I was brought back to remembering winter quarter of 2009 during my studies at UCSD. One morning, I had decided to grab a smoothie from Jamba Juice on campus after my noon class. When I went up to order, the girl behind the counter gave me the oddest look.
“Weren’t you here this morning?” She asked, not moving to take my order.
“Excuse me?” I had just arrived to campus. I don’t remember why, but my morning classes had been cancelled. “No, I actually haven’t been in here in a long time.” I was confused at why it mattered if I had been in there recently or not at all.
“You ordered a smoothie this morning.” She was both confused and seemed pissed, at the same time.
“You must have me mistaken for someone else.” I laughed.
“No, it was you. I remember.” She named off my order.
“Not that it matters, but I haven’t ordered that in years.” I realized she still hadn’t asked me what I wanted to order. “More importantly, even if I had been in here earlier, why is that a problem?”
She sighed, “Whatever. What do you want?”
I shook my head, but put on a smile. “May I please have an original Matcha Green Tea Blast?”
“You’re dressed the same. It has to have been you.” She handed me the receipt.”
“I don’t need it and have a great day.” I walked off and immediately called my best friend and former roommate.
“Hey, habibti. Did you come to Jamba Juice earlier today?” I asked her.
“Yeah, how did you know?” She laughed.
“I’ll tell you later. Where are you?” I was amused, considering we didn’t look alike at all.
“I’m heading to the MSA prayer area and then to the SJP office.”
“Alright, cool. See you soon.”
I took my drink and headed over there. My roommates and I never headed to campus at the same time. Both this roommate and I always had earlier classes, but one of us always left before the other. I heard her leaving in the morning, but didn’t see her, as usual. We both walked into the prayer area from opposite ends, at the same time. Everyone in the area laughed.
“Dang! Did you two plan your outfit this morning?” One of the MSA brothers asked.
“Wow! I haven’t even seen her all day.” I laughed.
As I stood there looking at my friend, we were both dressed in dark blue jeans – she in skinny jeans and me in straight ones. We both had on identical Palestine shirts, but different colored hijabs and shoes to match. Both of us had on a black jacket with a hood. I told her what happened at Jamba Juice and everyone laughed.
“Didn’t you know all hijabis look the same?” Another friend sarcastically remarked. “Or maybe it’s that Palestinian look.” He added.
[Sign outside the coffee shop.]
It makes me smile to remember that day. Something similar happened to me last night and this afternoon at a coffee shop.
When I arrived to New York, a friend who is in NYC for her medical school rotations gave me a few suggestions for coffee shops in one of my favorite areas in Brooklyn, Park Slope, that make for good study spaces. I tried each once before choosing my own café to work. I saw her recently and she urged me to return to this Swedish coffee spot that she loves but I didn’t return to because the barista was a jerk to me the first time. She told me she was a regular customer last winter.
Last night, I chose to walk into that coffee shop for a quick latte after book shopping.
“Hi.” I cheerfully greeted him.
“Hey.” He stared at me. I couldn’t tell if it was the same barista.
“How are you doing?” Because after all these months in New York, the Californian in me still believes in asking people how they’re doing before I order anything, despite the blank stare and no response I usually receive.
“Tired.” I wasn’t sure how to react to his monotone response.
“Aww, I’m sorry.” I could feel the awkwardness filling the short space between us.
He shrugged, “We’re closing soon. We close early on Sundays.” He stated.
“Now?” I looked around at the café that was still full of people. “Can I still order something.”
He stared back at me, expressionless.
“Caaan I get a latte? Soy?” I smiled.
He finally smiled back, “Oh, yeah.” He mumbled, again. “I can take care of that for you.”
Suddenly, he was really nice to me.
“So, what time do you close tonight?” I leaned over the counter to ask as he pulled the espresso shots for my drink.
“Uhm,” He pulled out his phone and fumbled with it. “Woah!” He mumbled something I couldn’t understand, then awkwardly laughed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
“I almost dropped my phone. That was close.” I thought I might have actually spotted a slight smile.
“Yikes.” I felt like his awkwardness was rubbing off on me.
He handed me my drink, “I haven’t seen you around in a really long time.”
“Yeah,” It hit me. He thought I was actually my friend. “Just been busy.” He was being so much nicer, I decided to just go with it. “Have a good night!” I jetted out of there.
Today, I decided to actually try working in there again.
When I ordered, he was nice again, joking around in that monotone voice, with a hint of jerk.
“Hey, how are you doing today?” I smiled.
“Good. What do you want to drink?” I noticed a grin emerging, like he was planning something in his head.
“Soy latte, please. And, what time do you close tonight?” I asked.
“We close at 8 tonight. You’re not going to try to come back here at 7:30 and order again, are you?” He mocked as he swiped my card.
“Nah, I’ll be nice this time.” I held back my own snarkiness. I picked up one of those buy 9 drinks get the 10th one free cards. “Hey, can I get this stamped?”
“I don’t stamp cards for costumers who don’t regularly come in anymore.” He took the card.
I smirked realizing again he still thought I was my friend. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back often.”
“Alright, since I always see you in here…” He stamped off 8 squares for my one drink, “So you can get a free one sooner. Now you only need one left.”
“Thanks!” I felt a hint of guilt as I walked away and thought to myself that I should treat my friend to coffee for unknowingly getting me on good terms with the barista.
I took a seat at the far end of the café, next to the window, of course. I turned on my computer before realizing I didn’t have the password for the free wifi. I thought I had connected my laptop and phone the first time I tried this place, but it must have disconnected me. I asked the woman sitting behind me, but she didn’t remember the password because it had been atomically connected from the first time she used her laptop in this place. I knew I needed to ask the barista, risking him knowing I played off being a regular costumer… I felt bad about it.
I approached the counter as he was making a cup of coffee for a costumer, “What’s the password, again?” I cautiously asked.
“His brows furrowed in confusion. “How do you not have it? I thought I had recognized you for someone that’s been here a few times…” His smile dropped.
“Yeah… I don’t know why I’m not connected anymore.”
“Here you go.” He handed me the password. “Don’t forget it.” He ordered.
I walked back to my seat feeling his eyes following me. I immediately texted my friend letting her know the barista had definitely confused me for her. If she walks in later this winter, I was hoping he’d recognize the difference. I knew she hadn’t been here since her last rotation ended earlier this year, but now she’s back for another rotation this winter. If he asks me next time I’m here, I’ll confirm that there are indeed two hijabis that frequent this café.
It amuses me that he thought we were one person. Aside from the hijab, my friend and I look nothing alike. I tried to remember if we dressed in any similar way, but despite that, we are also two different ethnicities. I will say that we both fit the Californian nice, bubbly attitude, but she’s definitely so much sweeter than I am. To be honest, I was flattered because my friend is beautiful.
It always strikes me as funny and ridiculous when people mistake me for another hijabi they have met when it’s based upon the fact that we’re both Muslim and wear the hijab. This situation wasn’t any different. Although, come to think of it, I haven’t seen another hijabi in the area in all the months I have been coming to Park Slope, which surprises me considering the amount of Muslims here. Maybe it’s just the areas I go for my coffee and to work on my writing and photography. Either way, I know it won’t be the last time I experience this. It has happened to me many times before, not just these two instances. Every time, it boggles my mind that this type of stereotyping exists – when one thinks that everyone from one type of background looks the same based on ethnicity, skin color, or even way of dress. I’ll leave it at that.
On the bright side, I get a free cup of coffee soon and the awkward barista who I have watched be a jerk to every younger person that has come in is at least nice enough to me that I can be sarcastic back and feel comfortable enough being a frequent costumer. Not going to lie, he seems like a decent guy. Most importantly, he makes really good coffee!
Looks like I have found a new café to work in, and a blog post I have been working on for a while will finally be coming to you soon…