The story I'm about to relate took place in the recent past (OK, early this afternoon) and I'm pretty sure it has had a permanent impact on the way I think myself.
I went to get my nails done at a new salon so I didn't know the staff. Like pretty much every nail salon down here, this one was run by Asians, who are very good at it, by the way. I walked into the salon, looked around, and spotted an Asian lady sitting at the table at the very front of the salon, looking idle. We locked eyes and she looked at me intently, as they usually do, as if asking without words "What are you here for?" After a couple of seconds, I proceeded with my request: "Hello! Manicure, pedicure, and eyebrows, please." The lady smiled sweetly and replied "Oh, you have to talk to one of them (pointing to one of the people working on someone else's feet), I don't work here."
I turned all shades of pale and my jaw dropped to the floor. Holy shit! At that very moment, all I wanted was for the earth to open up beneath my feet and swallow me. I immediately apologized in every way I could. I would have given that woman my left kidney right then and there if she'd asked. "I am SOOOO sorry! Oh my god, I feel like a total ass!" "I'm SOOOOO sorry! I think I'm just going to leave now." The woman must have seen the I-want-to-die-right-now look on my face because she continued to smile and tell me that it was OK and not to worry about it. No, it wasn't OK, I had just racially stereotyped someone and I felt like a certified dick, moron, and everything in between. I have never felt so bad in my entire life. I'm also pretty sure that I made even more an ass of myself with my nonstop stream of apologies. I could see the look on her face "lady, just let it go!"
WOW. I fancied myself a pretty open minded, not racist, person but now I'm not so sure. It was an honest mistake, or so the poor woman told me, but still, I ASSumed that an Asian woman in an Asian nail salon was a nail worker and I opened my mouth. Fuck my life.
Of course, then the actual Asian (she's Vietnamese) salon lady had the last laugh when she mercilessly, and sadistically, waxed and plucked my eyebrows while I flopped around on the waxing table like a fish having a febrile seizure. Serves me right.