When I was much younger, we had a building on the worst corner in town. It had been a hangout since time immemorial, but in addition to all the people hanging on the corner every night, there was tons of litter – plastic cups, wrappers, etc. from the coffee shop next door. So one day, on the spur of the moment, I decided to pop into the coffee shop and ask the owner if he could put a trash can outside his store to help with the litter problem.
What I walked into took a few moments for me to process. There, in a space no larger than the average bathroom, it seemed like fifty black men were standing cheek to jowl, shouting and passing dollar bills across the counter to the coffee shop’s owner. Without missing a beat, with one hand still taking money and shouting orders, and every eye on me, I saw the owner apprise the situation: who was this crazy white girl in his shop just before post time? Surely the cops wouldn’t have sent her.
Just then a man’s booming voice laughed “M, what you doin’ here?” It was Mr. J, one of my tenants! With that, the tension in the room dissipated. I quickly stammered that I could see the owner was busy, but I just wanted to ask if he could put a trash can outside his door. I’ll stop by another time when it’s quieter... I then beat a hasty retreat.
He never stopped taking bets, and never acknowledged me, but the next day there was a trash can outside the door of the "coffee shop".