Commanding attention and respect - Greg Gelpi

For a brief moment, I existed.

I absolutely dread going to malls or those trendy stores typically associated with malls, and it's not because of the crowds or driving in circles to find a parking spot.

When I find that I must go to one of these places, I walk into name brand stores and the shadow of a person that I am isn't even noticed.

I could do jumping jacks in a skimpy cheerleader outfit and still not get anything resembling customer service.

Comfortable in my not-so fashionable clothing, store employees turn to me with a quickly vanishing grin and proceed to stare through me in search of a customer to assist.

A person of my appearance certainly must not truly expect to purchase such stylish clothing, or so they must be thinking.

Somehow when others wear old T-shirts and frayed blue jeans, it's popular and "cool," but when I do, I'm seen as wearing ratty old clothes. My high school clothes, which strangely look identical to the wrinkled high-priced new clothing, appears differently than "cool" clothes.

Out to a nice dinner recently, that changed.

I experienced, although ever so briefly, what it's like to be noticed, to exist in the eyes of a fancy business.

Suddenly, the owner of the restaurant was making sure that my meal was more than simply good, but that it was perfect. My sweet tea never reached half empty, but was nearly always full.

Suddenly, I appeared on center stage rather than melting into the background. The spotlight shone on me.

Unfortunately, I feel this would never have occurred if not for the person who accompanied me, a person well known in the area of Atlanta in which we ate. It didn't hurt that he had a little money and tipped well.

Money can obviously buy more "stuff," but it amazed me that money could command more attention and demand more respect as well.

After my friend treated me to the lavish meal, I returned to my meager existence, my meager ordering through an intercom system and eating in my car.

I returned, though, with the understanding that I do exist. My bank account just doesn't meet the approval of society and fancy businesses.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.