Some years ago I was in a supermarket in Warsaw, Indiana.
I had gone along with the Ruuska family from their nearby lake house for provisions for a picnic.
Plus we had run out of beer.
Everyone knows that lake houses and beer go together like peanut butter and jelly.
So there I was standing in an aisle of this supermarket examining something and my friend's father, Whitey, just disappeared on me. One minute he was next to me, the other he was gone.
I looked up and down the aisle but he was nowhere to be found.
So I called out his name.
Seemingly everyone within earshot in the store turned to look at me with some very unpleasant looks on their faces.
Let me explain.
I'm not sure about now but at the time Warsaw, Indiana was not what one would describe as a "diverse" town. And when I say "diverse" I mean they didn't have very many black people.
And when I say "not very many" I mean less than five.
So you can imagine the reactions the locals were giving what they perceived to be a sass-mouth black girl.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous.
And when I say "little nervous" I mean "holy shit" I'm gonna have to run for my life.
While I'm thinking of what to say to defuse an increasingly uncomfortable situation, my friend's father silently reappeared by my side.
I looked over and relief washed over me.
As he stood there not cracking a smile I pointed to his work shirt and said, "See look, his name really is Whitey."
You could almost hear the "Ahh's" of understanding.
There were two important take aways from that experience.
1. Always be aware of your surroundings.
2. Never underestimate the power of a good Whitey.