How Do You Define Bigot? A Defining Experience At The Central Penn Fitness and Aquatic Club, Harrisburg, PA

Bigotry felt and explained! A personal experience…

I have been in the United States since 1981 and a citizen since 1987. Prior to coming here I escaped from communist Romania, where I worked for 8 years as a translator at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. In fact, I only worked for the United States, even when I was in Romania.

So… would someone like me, an educated European woman, who worked all her life, but still maintains an accent experience bigotry in The MELTING POT, AMERICA???

Over the years I held many positions, including selling insurance on the phone, also public speaking in front of hundreds. Not once did I feel discrimination because I had an accent.

Well, I had to move to Central Pennsylvania and late in life feel the “FEELING” that I was LESS than the person next to me. Why? Just because I was a woman with an accent.

Of course this is debatable as a “feeling.” It’s not real, it’s subjective… Oh well then let’s assess why I FELT discriminated, put down, insulted.

LET’s look at the FACTS of September 3, 2015, as they took place at the Central Penn Fitness and Aquatic Club, Harrisburg, PA!!!

CENTRAL PENN Fitness and Aquatics, Harrisburg, PA

I suffer from arthritis and aqua exercise and swimming are a life saver. I was beyond hopeful when I was told by friends at church that there was a large pool which offered this option.

At first I called the Cetral Penn Aquatics. A flat-voiced man answered the phone. At first I thought I dialed the wrong number, but NO, it was the Aqua Club!
I wanted to make an appointment but I was told to just stop by.

As I hang up, I was already questioning whether it would be a good idea. The man who answered the phone at the club was the opposite of what employees at health clubs are trained to do and have the personality to do well. Simply, to be nice!
Okay… I thought. I will STOP BY!!! I really needed to swim!

At the desk, a “seasoned, unsmiling” gentleman, informed me the second I open my mouth:

“I recognize YOUR VOICE!!! YOU SPOKE WITH ME! Feel out this card, give me your driver’s license, all insurance cards!”

I am not the type to “obey” but this man, who FAILED to introduce himself and asked for ALL my personal information, meant business! Damn it! I complied!

He took my information and re-appeared in a few minutes informing me my insurance does not cover their Membership!

It was explained to me the insurance would, may be, cover the ground part of the membership, but not the AQUA, and the Aqua was an extra $14.99 a month, I had already made up my mind, I’d pay the $14.99 and use the pool, since I didn’t plan using the ground anyway!

Well, I continued to have the “nerve” to ask to be shown the pool. Rather, I forced the still NAMELESS GUIDE to show me the pool.
As we go through a maze of up and down corridors and he unlocks doors, he stated that in fact the $14.99 monthly aqua fee was ONLY offered to people whose insurance paid for the ground membership.

In PLAIN ENGLISH, NO ACCENT: the $14.99 fee for aqua was a discounted fee connected to the full membership paid by insurance. Mine, didn’t and suddenly, the $14.99 CHANGED into $45 a month!!! WHY WASN’T I BEING TOLD THIS ON THE PHONE???

No… I was not happy and asked the no name, no smile guide to put me in touch with his manager.
For the first time, he exhibited emotions: it looked like HURT!

“I am the MANAGEMENT!!!” he announced.

It went from bad to worse. Next he told me there was an owner, but the owner was mostly not there.
It all culminated when I asked again:

WHAT IS YOUR NAME???

He replied:

“I AM NOT GIVING YOU MY NAME!!! AND, he continued:

I AM PLACING YOU ON A LIST AND YOU WILL NEVER BE ALLOWED TO COME TO THIS CLUB!!!”

I was BLACK LISTED IN AN AQUATIC CLUB IN HARRISBURG!!!

Should I have cried? Smile? Was this funny, stupid? A clear sign of bigotry? Craziness? All of the above!

I stormed out and went next door to the two facilities, a Physical Therapy and the OIP (Orthopedic Institute of PA)

From question to question I found out the OWNER of the Aqua Club was a retired OIP physician. I even managed to speak with a manager, who behaved like a Manager. Thank you.

From question to question, I also found out the name of the no-name man was LARRY Well Larry, I am still not clear why you treated me as a second hand citizen…why you were gong to black list me??? WHY Larry?

Oh!!! I could imagine… I imagine you refused to give me your name, give me an appointment, didn’t explain the fee schedule, and YOU THREATENED TO PUT ME ON A LIST TO PREVENT ME TO COME IN THE CLUB. UNFORTUNATELY, these are FACTS, Larry! FACTS! not feelings!

Part II

After speaking with the Manager at OIP, the Owner of the Club called me. A retired surgeon. My best description: He was civilized.

I come from a family of physicians, my daughter graduated from Harvard Medical School, and I hold a Master in Clinical Psychology.

I know social skills are NOT a surgeon’s strength. However I could not but think, when one assumes the ownership of a Club, they learn the basics of marketing, unless they already make too much money, or for reasons I will not call bigotry, because I might FEEL it, which would make it subjective.
Anyway, the conversation with the OWNER of the club, focuses on his concern that I might accuse them of bait and switch. In other words, not that I was emotionally shattered, insulted and minimalized as a human being by his employee, LARRY, but the concern was material, to MAKE SURE I will not accuse them of bait and switch!

I am assured by the owner my accent had nothing to do with it, neither does my being a woman. Sure. I believe him.

In my innocence, I was waiting for the OWNER, the retired surgeon, who is probably a millionaire, to offer an olive branch, a sign of TRUE “WE ARE SORRY.” A lolly pop? $5.00 off?

It does NOT happen. He just wanted to make sure they were not being accused of bait and switch in explaining the fees schedule.

Please know that even if I will be able to walk FREE OF CHARGE and use that facility, I will not.
Furthermore, I will never use AGAIN OIP OR ANY FACILITY WHICH IS FINANCIALLY CONNECTED TO THE CENTRAL PENN FITNESS AND AQUATICS!!!

The entire experience was the first time in my life when I FELT treated as less than a person!

I guess I had to have the “nerve” to think I could swim at Central Penn Aquatic in Harrisburg to really FEEL bigotry first hand.

So… what is the definition of bigotry? I don’t know to put it in words but if someone, through their ACTIONS (FACTS) makes you feel as less than a person, think of bigotry. You are experiencing it, and it hurts like Hell!
Oh, as a reminder,
This is the 21st Century!!! Let’s try to honor it!

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