Voodoo Man

I pulled up at the fuel isle at our terminal in Chester, Virginia, and the guy who was freaked out by Kiki last week said “Hey, it’s the voodoo man.”
I said “You are not going to call me ‘the voodoo man’. If you have to label me, get it right and call me a witch.”
It went south from there.
I was mostly joking around, but later when I started into the building, I saw him talking to another mechanic. They were both looking at me. As I approached, I heard this guy tell the other mechanic, “You can work on his truck if you want to. I ain’t touching it.”
That’s when I realized that this was going to be a problem. I approached them and told the guy that I hoped this wasn’t going to be an ongoing problem. I didn’t want any trouble, and I thought it was silly that he was making a big deal out of this. I told them that it didn’t bother me what they believed, and I’d appreciate it if they would return the favor. They both kind of brushed this off, so I told them that if it did become an issue, at some point we’d probably need to speak to management about it.
The first guy said “I have a right to believe what I believe.”
I agreed, and told him “Yes, you do. But what you believe isn’t the issue here. It’s how you’re acting.”
The other guy said “Ain’t you over-reacting a bit here, driver?”
“I don’t think so,” I told him. “I’ve lost jobs because someone decided they didn’t like me because of what I believe. I’ve learned from hard experience that it’s best to get this stuff out in the open.”
I don’t remember the rest of the short conversation exactly, but I told them that if this was going to become an issue, I’d certainly talk to management about. And I laid the whole thing at the first mechanic’s feet, and let him know in no uncertain terms that this was all about him, and really had little to do with me. He could cause problems if he wanted. But I wouldn’t just slink away.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what the other mechanic said. Was I over-reacting? If I walked up and someone said “Hey, it’s the Jew boy,” would I then be over-reacting by making an issue of it?
Look, I wasn’t trying to have a pissing contest. But I wasn’t joking when I said that I’ve lost jobs because of my beliefs. I worked at one warehouse where a woman referred to me as “infidel” because I made no secret of my Pagan leanings. Later I learned that she had been working feverishly to get me fired, for no other reason than that I was Wiccan. I found out how things had come to a head when, during the last few weeks I worked there, I suddenly couldn’t do anything right. In one particularly heated exchange with the warehouse manager, he told me “I’m not afraid of you. I don’t believe in witches.” I was stunned. I didn’t see how being harassed over performance issues when I was generally regarded as the best order puller and forklift driver in the warehouse translated into such a statement. We hadn’t been talking about Wicca or Paganism. Then the light bulb came on.
A week later I was laid off. I won’t bore you with the details, but I had problems in other jobs because of my beliefs. I’ve never been one of these people who wear the Wiccan uniform (you know, the black clothing and the Star Trek haircut) or proselytized for my Faith and sought recruits (if you know anything about Wiccans, you’ll know that’s not very common). So if I seem a bit sensitive about this, there is good reason.
In the end, the only thing I really intended to do was isolate this mechanic. Once the other mechanic realized that I was prepared to make an issue out of any hint of harassment, it was clear by his expression that the other guy was on his own. No one is going to put his job on the line because of another guy’s knee-jerk reaction to his own lack of faith. And really, what else could explain this guy’s need to challenge me? That’s what he did. Making a remark about “the voodoo man” was a benign way of challenging me. And he chose to do so solely because the fact that I had a souvenir voodoo doll in my truck bothered him.

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