CASE STUDY #1
Back when I worked at the grocery store, I often had to be out at the bus stop before 6AM in order to get to work on time. I worked there through the winter, when it was dark at 6AM.
One Sunday morning, at 5:55AM, I was out at my bus stop as usual, on the corner of North Florissant and Saint Louis, in the dark, alone, when a truck drove up. Two white people were inside. They looked at each other with caution and hesitation, but then one of them rolled down their window and asked me for directions. I forget where they were going exactly, but I want to say they were looking for Natural Bridge and North Grand. Wherever it was, they were heading in the opposite direction of where they needed to be going.
I gave them flawless directions, replete with landmarks and with "If you pass blahblahblah, you'll know you've gone too far."
They thanked me. They were silent. They looked at each other again, and after what seemed like at least 30 seconds of silence, they asked me "Do you know where you are? Do you need a ride?"
The question seemed entirely genuine, and trust me, at 5something in the morning when I am out by myself on a deserted street corner, I assume everyone is out to get me. But they seemed to really be concerned.
These people had a textbook case of "OMG IT'S A LITTLE WHITE GIRL NORTH OF DELMAR!" Syndrome.
I assured them that I knew where I was, and that I live here, and that the bus would be there shortly. They drove away, still looking somewhat worried. I wonder how they thought I gave them those great directions if I didn't know where I was, hmm?
CASE STUDY #2
A couple of months later, I was waiting for the bus at the corner and about the same hour, and I saw a white camera man from FOX 2 filming. I went up to him and asked him what had happened, since it's good to keep tabs on the events of one's own neighborhood. He told me what the story was about, and I thanked him. I walked off to the bus stop at the end of the 14th Street Mall, realizing at that point that I'd missed the #74 Florissant and I'd have to wait for the #30 Soulard.
Before the Soulard bus showed up, the camera man drove up in his SUV and stopped at the end of the Mall. He asked me, "What are you doing around HERE, anyway?"
Responding to the man's tone, I snarked back indignantly, "I LIVE HERE! I own a historic house one block away from here!"
I forget what he said, but I do remember that he acted weirded out. He drove away, exhibiting a classic example of the cat-suddenly-gotcher-tongue symptom that commonly afflicts OMGIALWGNOD sufferers.
CASE STUDY #3
When I worked at the grocery store, we got free coffee if we brought our own mug to work. I often brought my Crown Candy mug, since it provided a nice little opportunity to mention Old North when people commented on it.
One day, a white woman came through my check-out line dressed head to toe in real fur. She told me something about how it was her twice yearly trip "into the city," and how she was totally surprised that Downtown was experiencing revitalization (Musta been a couple of years since the last twice yearly trip, huh?).
She noticed my mug, and made some little comment about it. I gave her the standard, "Why yes I love Crown's it's great I LIVE RIGHT BY THERE and I eat there all the time still. I thought I would have gotten sick of it since I LIVE IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD!" cutesy spiel.
She looked taken aback.
She said, "I was going to ask how the neighborhood is, but I guess if YOU live there it's fine."
I was tempted to say a lot of things right then, but I knew if I opened my mouth I'd probably say something that would get me fired, so I just remained silent and let her walk out of the store. She was deeply, deeply in the throes of OMGIALWGNOD, anyway, and it probably would have taken considerable rehabilitative therapy to bring her back to a healthy state.
CASE STUDY #4
This past Saturday, I took a nice, long walk through ONSL, St. Louis Place, and Jeff Vander Lou. The course of my walk took me past the back of Vashon High School, where five or so black men were sitting on the dock and chatting.
When I walked by, one of the men shouted across the street to me in a sing-song manner, "DO YOU NEED A MAN OF MY COMPLEXION TO WALK WITH YOU FOR YOUR PROTECTION?"
I laughed. I looked over to the dock, and saw the man smiling in a non-threatening way. I shook my head no, but offered him a cheesy salute to show there were no hard feelings. He cracked up, and I was glad to return the laugh.
This was maybe the first time I ran into an OMGIALWGNOD sufferer on the street who was actually smiling. This man's case of OMGIALWGNOD was also unusual because he was perfectly blunt about the race-based reasons for his surprise at seeing me there, which most people seem to try to skirt around (i.e. it's "that neighborhood" or "safety," when it's obvious what people are really getting at.).
Even though my neighborhood is pretty integrated, I have a feeling I will be running into people stricken with sudden fits of OMGIALWGNOD Syndrome for years to come.